Boeing will begin installing FAA-approved modifications to the existing fleet of 787s and to new-build aircraft, clearing the way for the beleaguered aircraft to return to service.
In a statement Boeing said the FAA approval begins the process of returning the 787 to flight “with continued confidence in the safety and reliability of this game-changing new airplane”.
The FAA approval will permit the return to service of 787s in the US following installation of the improvements, while “for 787s based and modified outside the United States, local regulatory authorities provide the final approval on return to service”, Boeing said.
Approval of the improved 787 battery system was granted by the FAA after the agency conducted an extensive review of certification tests.
“The tests were designed to validate that individual components of the battery, as well as its integration with the charging system and a new enclosure, all performed as expected during normal operation and under failure conditions,” Boeing said. “Testing was conducted under the supervision of the FAA over a month-long period beginning in early March.”
More than 100,000 hours was spent developing test plans, building test rigs, conducting tests and analysing the results to ensure the proposed solutions met all requirements.
The improved battery system includes design changes to prevent and isolate a fault should it occur.
“In addition, improved production, operating and testing processes have been implemented. The new steel enclosure system is designed to keep any level of battery overheating from affecting the airplane or even being noticed by passengers.
“This is a comprehensive and permanent solution with multiple layers of protection,” Boeing said. “The ultimate layer of protection is the new enclosure, which will ensure that even if a battery fails, there is no impact to the aircraft and no possibility of fire. We have the right solution in hand, and we are ready to go.”
Boeing has deployed teams to locations around the world to begin installing improved battery systems on 787s. Kits with the parts needed for the new battery systems are staged for shipment and new batteries also will be shipped immediately. Teams have been assigned to customer locations to install the new systems. Aircraft will be modified in approximately the order they were delivered.
Boeing will also begin installing the changes on new aircraft at the company’s two 787 final-assembly plants, with deliveries expected to resume in the weeks ahead.
Despite the disruption in deliveries that began in January, Boeing expects to complete all planned 2013 deliveries by the end of the year.
Meanwhile Boeing has announced it will reduce 747-8 production from two aircraft to 1.75 aircraft per month because of lower market demand for large passenger and freighter airplanes.