Boeing to meet with FAA on Dreamliner fixes: source

Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:30pm EST
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa and Anurag Kotoky

WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A senior Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) executive will meet with the head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday and present a series of measures aimed at preventing battery failures that grounded its 787 Dreamliner fleet for five weeks, according to a source familiar with the plans.

Ray Conner, who heads Boeing's commercial airplanes unit, will explain the proposed changes to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on Friday, but the plans have already been vetted with lower level U.S. government officials, the source said.

If Huerta and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood accept the proposed plan, that could lay the groundwork for resuming flights of the Boeing 787 by April, said the source, who asked not to be identified.

The engineering changes that Boeing has proposed include an improved box to contain any possible fire in the airliner's lithium-ion batteries. They are aimed at addressing four possible causes for the battery failures that resulted in a fire in a parked 787 in Boston on January 7, and a separate incident that forced a second 787 to make an emergency landing in Japan.

The grounding of all 50 Dreamliners that have already been delivered is costing Boeing and the airlines that operate the world's newest airliner dearly, compounding pressures caused by earlier delays in 787 deliveries.

On Wednesday, the chief executive of Australia's Qantas Airlines Ltd. (QAN.AX: Quote) said it had received $125 million in compensation income from Boeing for 787 delivery delays.

Analysts estimate the world's largest planemaker is missing out on about $200 million in delivery payments every month that the 787 remains grounded, while spending as much as $1 billion a month to keep its 787 production line running.

A second source familiar with Boeing's plans told Reuters that the company also planned to increase the space between the cells in the lithium-ion batteries made by Japan's GS Yuasa as a potential fix. (6674.T: Quote).   Continued...

A Dreamliner belonging to Polish airline LOT is being parked on the tarmac at Chopin International Airport in Warsaw February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Peter Andrews