FAA approves Boeing 787 certification plan, flight tests with prototype containment system installed

WASHINGTON, 13 March 2013. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials, having thoroughly reviewed Boeing Commercial Airplane Company's proposed modifications to the Dreamliner 787 aircraft’s battery system, subsequently approved the company’s certification plan for the redesigned power electronics.

The certification plan, the first step in the process to evaluate the 787’s return to flight, requires Boeing to conduct extensive testing and analysis to demonstrate compliance with the applicable safety regulations and special conditions. In short, Boeing must demonstrate to safety officials that the redesigned power system meets FAA requirements.

“This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed,” explains 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.”

Battery system modifications include: a redesign of the internal battery components to minimize initiation of a short circuit within the battery, better insulation of the cells, and the addition of a new containment and venting system.

“We are confident the plan we approved today includes all the right elements to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the battery system redesign,” adds FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “Today’s announcement starts a testing process which will demonstrate whether the proposed fix will work as designed.”

The certification plan includes a series of tests which must be passed before the 787 can return to service, establishes specific pass/fail criteria, defines the parameters that should be measured, prescribes the test methodology, and specifies the test setup and design. FAA engineers will be present for the testing and will be involved in all aspects of the process, a spokesperson affirms.

The FAA also approved limited test flights for two aircraft with prototype versions of the new containment system installed.

The FAA will approve the redesign only if the company completes all required tests and analysis to demonstrate the new design complies with FAA requirements.

The FAA’s airworthiness directive issued 18 Jan. 2013, which required operators to temporarily cease 787 operations, is still in effect, and the FAA is continuing its review of the 787 design, production, and manufacturing process.

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