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Boeing hopes battery redesign will get Dreamliners back in the air

Posting in Design

Hoping to get its grounded fleet of 787 Dreamliners back in the air, Boeing has proposed several changes to the design of its batteries which the company believes will reduce the risk of fire. The move is aimed to get its jets flying again while it investigates a longer term solution. Airlines around the world grounded their Dreamliners last month after batteries on two separate Japan airlines flights caught fire.

Among the suggested adjustments, Boeing proposes increasing the separation between the cells in the lithium-ion batteries it uses, which would limit the risk of heat spreading through the batteries. The company would also add stronger heat sensors. Boeing said these moves would make the batteries safer for its 50 grounded Dreamliner aircraft around the world, as well as future deliveries.

Any proposals Boeing submits at this point would have to be approved by both American and Japanese regulators, both of which are investigating the incidents last month - one in Boston and another on the way to Tokyo. Even if these modifications limited the risk of fire, concerns remain as to whether they address the root of the problem.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials, who have not yet commented on Boeing's proposed changes, have said that changes must improve warning times when a battery is malfunctioning, and do more to prevent such malfunctions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Additionally, the FAA is weighing Boeing's request to allow test flights of its Dreamliners. On Wednesday, the regulatory body did approve one flight, from Texas to Washington state.

Boeing has much riding on the success of the Dreamliner, which first rolled out in 2011. While its fleet is grounded, it has been unable to deliver any planes - which cost around $200 million - to customers.

Photo: Boeing

via [Wall Street Journal]

— By on February 6, 2013, 7:05 PM PST

Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure