The US Federal Aviation Administration has given the go-ahead to Boeing’s plan to test a redesigned battery system on its 787 Dreamliner.
The approval, which allows Boeing to make a pair of test flights, brings the planemaker a step closer to getting the 787 back in the air after it was grounded in January following two battery-related incidents.
Boeing first presented the battery re-design to the FAA in late February, saying the new design would minimise the risk of short circuit, better insulate the cells within the battery and add a new containment and venting system to prevent damage if the battery did catch fire. But the new design retains lithium ion batteries despite concerns about their stability.
The FAA has said the new design must pass a series of rigorous tests and that the agency would keep a close watch.
“We won’t allow the plane to return to service unless we’re satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers,” US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
Boeing CEO Jim McNerney welcomed the FAA approval of the test flights as “a critical and welcome milestone toward getting the fleet flying again and continuing to deliver on the promise of the 787.”
Regulators grounded the global fleet of 787s in mid-January after the plane’s lithium ion batteries caught fire aboard two aircraft, one in Boston and the other in Japan. Investigators have not yet determined the exact cause of the incidents.
Boeing is estimated to be losing $50 million a week while the aircraft are grounded.