FAA chief says Boeing 787 battery decision likely soon
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top aviation regulator said on Tuesday he expects to decide "very soon" whether to approve Boeing Co's (BA.N: Quote) redesigned 787 Dreamliner battery system, potentially ending a three-month ban on flights by the high-tech jet.
Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta, testifying to a congressional committee on air safety, said the agency is reviewing tests and analysis submitted by Boeing and will approve it when "we are satisfied Boeing has shown the redesigned battery system meets FAA requirements."
Huerta told reporters after the hearing that he expects the battery decision to be made "very soon."
Huerta said the FAA was working closely with the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating battery problems on two separate 787s in January, but would not necessarily link its decision to an NTSB hearing next week.
"We're on our own timetable in terms of completing the analysis," Huerta told reporters. "Once we're ready to move and make a determination, we will."
He also told the committee the FAA was considering separately whether to certify Boeing's 787 for extended-range operations, known as ETOPS. The plane was approved for flights over remote areas of up to 180 minutes when it was grounded for two battery meltdowns in January.
Before the grounding, Boeing had requested an upgrade to 330 minutes, but Huerta told reporters the agency was "not considering any expansion beyond that (180) at this time."
Separately on Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also acknowledged a decision on Boeing is expected soon. LaHood was speaking at a dinner hosted by the Arab American Institute. Continued...