Boeing CEO urges FAA to return 787 to service, delays continue

Thu Mar 28, 2013 2:22pm EDT
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By Alwyn Scott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - - Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) Chief Executive Jim McNerney on Thursday urged regulators reviewing battery problems on the company's grounded 787 passenger jet to let the plane back into service, saying he was confident the redesigned battery was safe.

He would not specify when he expected the jet to be flying customers again other than saying "sooner rather than later."

Separately, the airplane leasing company that is the world's biggest buyer of 787s said it expects its first delivery of the high-tech jet to be delayed to summer from spring, but that getting the plane restored to service will "go quickly."

The Federal Aviation Administration and its administrator Michael Huerta "have been champs here," McNerney told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce aviation summit in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. (For event video, click: )

"They have put us through our paces and they have America's best interests in mind. They have the safety of the public in mind as I hope we do, which I think at this point means let's get this thing back into service and get on with it."

Regulators worldwide banned flight of the 787 after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two of the aircraft in January. The grounding is costing Boeing an estimated $50 million a week in lost income and compensation payments to airlines.

McNerney said the grounding has been a "frustrating experience," but he had high confidence that the proposed fix for the battery system will work. Boeing is now running test flights to prove the safety of the system, which includes a steel box to prevent fire and contain explosion. McNerney said he expected the plane to be in service "sooner rather than later," though he was not more specific.

Shares of Boeing fell 0.5 percent to $85.76 in morning trading. The stock is up 16 percent since the plane was grounded, most of which came over the last month as the 787 moved closer to flying again.   Continued...

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney waits to be introduced to speak, in front of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner under construction as U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) toured the Boeing facility in Everett, Washington February 17, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed