SEATTLE - A video released Friday by Boeing shows employees packing and shipping stainless steel containment boxes that will house re-designed lithium-ion batteries for the 787 Dreamliner. Fifty of the jets are parked around the world, grounded three months and three days ago on January 16 when a second overheating battery incident in the skies over western Japan emitted smoke and forced swift FAA action.
About 11:35 a.m. Friday FAA administrator Michael Huerta lifted the grounding order, and now Boeing can start fixing those airplanes, and allowing them to carry passengers again.
Boeing's chief project engineer for the 787 Mike Sinnett said in a teleconference with reporters that the company is ready to dispatch 10 AOG teams world wide to start installing those boxes. AOG stands for Airplane On Ground, and the 300 members of those teams are experts in fixing airplanes in the field, sometimes even in jungle like conditions and getting jets airborne again. Boeing estimates it will take five days per jet to complete the upgrades.
Boeing says it invested 100,000 hours in designing changes to the airplane's battery system, the containment and ventilation system as a final layer of protection in case of any future battery failure, and testing and evaluation of those changes.
The first battery incident became a cascade of overheating battery cells in the rear battery of a Japan Air Lines 787, just minutes after it landed at Boston's Logan Airport, all due to an overheating battery that led to a fire. The second incident came on January 16 aboard an All Nippon Airways jet during flight, but did not result in visible flames.
Boeing promised the fixes to the planes will happen quickly, but it could still take several weeks to get all the jets back up and working. The FAA says U.S. airlines will receive instructions next week in the form of a directive on making the changes. Technically, only United Airlines 787s are legally affected by the order as United is the only airline in the nation that flis the Dreamliner. But traditionally other aviation authorities world wide will follow the FAA's lead involving an American designed jet. Japan may be slower to react as its authorities are talking about asking for more monitoring and other protections.
On Friday, United Airlines said it's "mapping out a return-to-service plan," but has yet to announce any plans to fly sooner than May 31st, but the carrier leaves open the possibility that it could fly its 787s sooner on domestic routes.