Last month Boeing presented a series of proposed fixes to the Federal Aviation Administration intended to address problems with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner's lithium-ion battery system — and today the FAA has taken the first step towards approving those changes. In a press release, the FAA states that it has approved the "certification plan" — essentially allowing Boeing to begin a testing process to prove whether the battery fixes will get the job done. As part of that plan, the FAA is approving limited test flights for two different aircraft. Those test vehicles will be outfitted with prototype battery systems incorporating the fixes. The changes included redesigned internal battery components, improved insulation of the battery cells themselves, and a new venting system.
An important first step
While this is no doubt good news for Boeing, it's important to remember that this is simply the first step of a lengthy process. The FAA will only let the troubled 787 — which was grounded by the agency in January after a series of highly-publicized battery fires — return to commercial operation when it's satisfied. "This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "We won't allow the plane to return to service unless we're satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers."