Dreamliners Could Be Flying Again In Two Months, Sources Say
Boeing has an appointment with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta Friday to discuss a possible fix for the battery issues that have kept its Dreamliner airplanes grounded for more than a month. Sources close to the company say that if they are approved, the fleet could be carrying passengers again in two months.
The Associated Press reports that the planemaker believes that adding ceramic insulation between the battery cells and other changes, including a modified venting system, would prevent the batteries from overheating and causing a fire. It is not expected that Huerta will immediately give approval to the re-design, but at least it would be a starting point for a discussion of what standards Boeing will need to meet as it designs and tests the repair before installing it on the affected planes.
But the fix does not get to the root cause of why the batteries overheated in the first place, which has not yet been determined. Boeing's hope is that by proposing a safer design they can get the airplanes back in the air, and start to make inroads on a delivery backlog that is eating away at its cash reserves.
The proposed repairs would also include increasing the spacing between the battery cells, and modifications in the way they are installed in the airplane to reduce the effects of moisture, vibration, or swelling of the cells. It would also include a system to vent any hazardous material to the outside of the airplane, and monitor individual cells rather than the system as a whole.
Boeing thinks it could rebuild the battery systems on planes already in service by the end of March, but there is no guarantee that the FAA will approve the changes that quickly.