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FAA approves flight test for new Boeing Dreamliner battery plan

Posting in Design

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner may be able to take off once more as the FAA approves flight plans to test out a new battery solution.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved Boeing's plans to take the redesigned 787 battery system for a spin in order to fix issues that have plagued the 787 Dreamliner plane model and resulted in battery fires, emergency landings and the grounding of fleets this year.

The FAA's grant of permission to begin testing the redesigned lithium-ion battery -- which includes revamping the internal battery components, a new ventilation system and better cell insulation -- is a major milestone for Boeing, whose engineers have been scrabbling for months to find a solution. Batteries will now be enclosed in stainless steel cases -- which are resistant to higher temperatures -- and tubes of titanium may be used to improve the ventilation of gases.

Adding insulation would space the cells farther apart to keep the plane’s vibrations from bringing them into contact. Boeing would also add systems to monitor the temperature and activity in each cell.

The first stage is a certification plan, which involves extensive testing to make sure the battery redesign is up to scratch -- and if the FAA isn't happy, the agency has the power to demand additional changes before granting its official approval to the carrier.

"This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "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."

FAA engineers will be on hand to watch over every element of testing, which also includes two aircraft test flights equipped with the prototype battery and over 20 stress tests, according to the New York Times.

Image credit: Boeing

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— By on March 13, 2013, 10:50 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