Tokyo: Boeing said safety upgrades to the 787 Dreamliner's battery systems may allow commercial flights to restart within weeks, ending a two-month grounding of the composite-plastic fleet.
Changes include installation of a new enclosure for the battery, a focus of regulatory probes after catching fire on one aircraft and smoking on another, and adjustments to the charger, Boeing said in Tokyo yesterday. The device will also undergo more rigorous tests, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Ray Conner said.
The improvements will allow the resumption of service once the United States Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators sign off, and Air India may fly its five 787s as soon as April.
Boeing would also be able to restart deliveries of the aircraft, for which it has a backlog of more than 800 jets with a catalogue value of about $187 billion.
"It is reasonable to expect that we could be back up and going in weeks, not in months," Mike Sinnett, vice president and chief project engineer of the 787 programme, told reporters in Tokyo.
Regulators led by the FAA ordered the global fleet of 49 Dreamliners parked on January 16, forcing the eight carriers operating the plane to shuffle their schedules and put other jets into service to fill the gaps.
Air India planes
Air India's 787s will start receiving the Boeing modifications next week, and the state-owned airline's planes may be back in service in April, the country's aviation regulator, Arun Mishra, said in Delhi.
United Continental, whose six Dreamliners are the only ones in service at a US carrier, didn't immediately return messages left before normal business hours about the timing of any new flights. Qatar Airways had no immediate comment on when its 787s may resume flights, according to an e-mailed statement.