Boeing wins approval for testing of its 787 fix

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Boeing is on the verge of flight testing the modified 787
battery system changes on Line Number 86, an aircraft destined for LOT Polish
Airlines. The aircraft is set to undergo a final pre-flight ground test in the
afternoon (Pacific time), at Paine Field, Everett
on 24th, and if all goes to plan could be cleared for a standard
‘B2’ profile, customer acceptance type flight test on March 25.

 

Boeing originally hoped to conduct this flight test on
either the 23rd or today, but evidently is working its way through last minute
issues before conducting the flight test. Ground tests of the electric and
electronic equipment (E/E) bay are also underway on a Japan Airlines 787 at
Paine Field, though it is not known if these are directly associated with the
on-going certification efforts for the battery modification, or simply part of
the regular pre-delivery tests as Boeing gets set to resume production flight
testing.

 

At Boeing Field, close to Seattle, the company is also preparing 787
development test aircraft ZA005 for ground tests of the revised battery –
particularly the new stainless steel enclosure and its associated venting
system. No date yet on when this might occur, though recent activity indicates
the test may be scheduled for early in the week.


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Boeing’s grounded 787s moved closer to resuming flight Tuesday when the
Federal Aviation Administration
approved Boeing’s plan to redesign and certify the plane’s
lithium-ion batteries to reduce fire risks.

 

Two 787 aircraft will do the flight tests.

 

In a release, the FAA and the Department of Transportation
emphasized that the plane won’t be allowed to carry passengers until the
agencies are convinced that Boeing’s fix is safe.

 

The approval “requires Boeing to conduct extensive
testing and analysis to demonstrate compliance with the applicable safety
regulations and special conditions,” the release said.

 

Reflecting the gravity of the situation, which has grounded
the entire fleet of 50 delivered Boeing 787s since Jan. 16, Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood issued a statement.

 

“This comprehensive series of tests will show us
whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed,” he
said, in the statement. “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.”

 

Boeing’s plan has three parts, according to the FAA
release: “A redesign of the internal battery components to minimize
initiation of a short circuit within the battery, better insulation of the
cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system.”

 

Most reports on the situation have focused on the
cells’ insulation and the venting system, so the internal redesign is a
newly publicized feature. This may lengthen the certification process.

 

In a statement, Boeing shed more light on the new design.

 

"Design feature improvements for the battery include
the addition of new thermal and electrical insulation materials and other
changes. The enhanced production and testing processes include more stringent
screening of battery cells prior to battery assembly. Operational improvements
focus on tightening of the system’s voltage range. A key feature of the new
enclosure is that it ensures that no fire can develop in the enclosure or in
the battery," the Boeing statement said.

 

The fleet will remain grounded until, and if, the FAA
certifies the new system. Boeing is continuing to produce new 787s, which have
been accumulating on the ground in Everett and Charleston, S.C.

 

The announcement follows last week’s release by the National
Transportation Safety Board of research material on the battery from the Japan
Airlines aircraft that burned on Jan. 7.

 

Neither the NTSB nor Boeing have been able to pinpoint the
cause of the short circuit in one of the battery’s eight cells that caused the
fire. This means that the new Boeing design is focused on reducing the
possibility of such a fire, or the damage it might cause.

 

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