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FAA approves Boeing's 787 Dreamliner battery fix

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday approved Boeing's proposed battery fix for its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, a key step toward getting the grounded jetliner back in the skies.

Airlines operating the 787 will be given instructions next week on how to implement the fix of the problematic lithium-ion batteries that overheated, prompting the worldwide grounding of the 787 in mid-January, the FAA said.

"The changes are designed to address risks at the battery cell level, the battery level and the aircraft level," the aviation regulator said in a statement.

The FAA said it also would issue next week a final directive that would allow the 787 to return to service with the battery system fix, upon publication of the notice. It did not disclose the date.

"Safety of the traveling public is our number one priority. These changes to the 787 battery will ensure the safety of the aircraft and its passengers," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in the statement.

The FAA will require airlines to install 787 containment and venting systems for the main and auxiliary system batteries, and to replace the batteries and their chargers with modified components.

The FAA said it would "closely monitor" the modifications. "Any return to service of the modified 787 will only take place after the FAA accepts the work," it said.

At this time, the FAA announcement affects the sole US airline fying 787s: United Airlines.

The FAA said it would "continue to support other authorities around the world as they finalize their own acceptance procedures."

Boeing, which has been working with the FAA and other regulators to discover the cause of the battery problems and develop a fix, welcomed the FAA nod of approval.

"This is a comprehensive and permanent solution with multiple layers of protection," said Boeing commercial airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner.

"The ultimate layer of protection is the new enclosure, which will ensure that even if a battery fails, there is no impact to the airplane and no possibility of fire. We have the right solution in hand, and we are ready to go."

A report Friday suggested regulators in other countries could impose additional safety requirements on Boeing.

A report in Japan's Nikkei business daily said measures imposed by the Japanese transport ministry could include remote monitoring of battery data such as voltage and more frequent battery inspections.

All of the 50 Boeing 787 planes in service were grounded globally in mid-January after a series of overheating problems with the cutting-edge plane's lithium-ion battery system.

The grounding came after a battery fire on a parked Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport and an incident in which battery smoke forced an emergency landing of an All Nippon Airways (ANA) 787 in Japan.

The US National Transportation Safety Board next week will hold a two-day hearing on the lithium-ion battery design and the Boston incident. The hearing will also scrutinize the FAA certification of the batteries for use in Boeing's new high-tech plane.

Boeing shares gained 2.1 percent.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130419/faa-approves-boeings-787-dreamliner-battery-fix