SEATTLE – KING 5 News has learned Boeing on Friday will be making its high level pitch to the FAA in Washington, D.C., to fix the 787 battery problem and get the grounded fleet of some 50 jets back into the air.
Sources tell us FAA administrator Michael Huerta will meet with Boeing commercial airplane chief Ray Conner, 787 Chief Project engineer Mike Sinnett and Ron Hinderberger, an executive with extensive experience in the field of air safety who leads the company’s dealings with regulators.
Those executives will brief Huerta on two major components of Boeing fix, a containment system that would surround the battery and vent any smoke or debris directly outside the jet through a valve. The plan involves a new battery configuration, separating the eight individual cells inside the battery case with a fireproof divider. The system would also provide better thermal monitoring of individual cells.
The National Transportation Safety Board has said that in the case of a battery that caught fire in Boston on January 7, when one cell overheated, it spread to adjacent cells.
Boeing is already working with its emergent manufacturing facility in Auburn to build at least 100 containment units if the FAA signs off. Boeing has continued to build new Dreamliners during the grounding and is working on its 100th jet right now.
But sources say not to expect this to be a quick fix. The FAA is expected to thoroughly vet the new system, which won’t come as a surprise since FAA experts have been overseeing Boeing engineers as they’ve developed the system.
An indication of how long this could take came Thursday from United Airlines, so far the only U.S.-based carrier flying the jet. United said it’s putting off new Denver-to-Japan service using 787s until at least mid May, and added no other 787s are on the schedule until early June.