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Boeing: Dreamliners could be in the air 'within weeks'

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The FAA have just granted permission for test flights to begin, and so Boeing has optimistically said that flights could be taking off in a matter of weeks.

Plagued by battery issues which have caused fires and emergency landings, prompting authorities and airlines to keep the planes firmly on the runway, the Boeing 787's safety has been in question this year. As reported by Reuters, Boeing -- developer of plane models including the now-grounded 787 Dreamliner -- is confident that its fleet will be back in the air in no time.

The firm has proposed a fix for the lithium-ion overheating problem which has placed the planes under scrutiny, and this week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved testing of the redesigned battery, including two limited test flights.

Boeing's redesigned battery includes a revamp of internal components, casing which provides better cell insulation and ventilation, and a stainless steel case which should be more resistant to higher temperatures -- and hopefully prevent internal fires.

In order to acquire certification for the new battery, the FAA is involved in extensive testing, and has the power to withhold approval if the battery is not considered safe enough. Boeing says that the redesign will remove the risk of fire, and that it is currently a third of the way through the rigorous certification program.

At a briefing in Tokyo, chief project engineer for the 787 program Mike Sinnett commented:

"If we look at the normal process and the way in which we work with the FAA, and we look at the testing that's ahead of us, it is reasonable to expect that we could be back up and going in weeks, not months."

However, no singular issue was found that causes the fire risk. Sinnett said that "because we did not find the single root cause, we looked at everything that could impact a battery and set a broad set of solutions," a disclosure that Japan's Civil Aviation Bureau deemed "inappropriate."

The bureau does not known when flights may be allowed to once again take off. Japan is one of Boeing's largest customer bases, with Airlines and All Nippon Airways accounting for almost half of total Dreamliner orders.

Image credit: Boeing

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— By on March 14, 2013, 11:13 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure