Dreamliner set to fly in a week as Boeing fixes battery

Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:26am EDT
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By Tim Kelly and Rhys Jones

TOKYO/LONDON (Reuters) - Boeing (BA.N: Quote) began installing reinforced lithium-ion batteries on five grounded 787 jets in Japan on Monday, starting a process that should make the first commercial Dreamliners ready to fly again in about a week.

Boeing's Dreamliners have been grounded since regulators in the United States and elsewhere ordered all 50 planes out of the skies in mid-January after batteries on two of them overheated. U.S. regulators approved a new battery design on Friday.

The grounding has cost Boeing an estimated $600 million, halted deliveries and forced some airlines to lease alternative aircraft. Several airlines have said they will seek compensation from Boeing, potentially adding to the plane maker's losses.

The first five jets to receive the new strengthened battery system all belong to All Nippon Airways (9202.T: Quote), the airline that launched the first commercial Dreamliner service.

"Our first priority is to get the existing fleet back into the air," Larry Loftis, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, told European reporters.

Ten teams of some 30 engineers each have been dispatched by Boeing worldwide to install the stronger battery casing and other systems designed to prevent a repeat of the meltdowns that led to the first U.S. fleet grounding in 34 years.

The plan approved by the Federal Aviation Administration calls for Boeing to encase the lithium-ion batteries in a steel box, install new battery chargers, and add a duct to vent gases directly outside the aircraft in the event of overheating.

European authorities are expected to follow suit in approving the battery design, a spokesman for Europe's aviation safety body said.   Continued...

An All Nippon Airways' (ANA) Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane is seen at Haneda airport in Tokyo in this January 29, 2013, file photo. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files