The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) yesterday approved a rejigged battery system for Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner, a crucial step in returning the high-tech jet to service following its grounding in January, due to the overheating of the lithium-iron batteries of the plane.
With the FAA approval of design changes, Boeing would be able to immediately start making repairs to the fleet of 50 planes, owned by airlines across the world. The design would need to be approved by other global regulators that would now be expected to act quickly following the FAA move.
The FAA action puts an end to the grounding that has entailed a loss estimated at $600 million, halted deliveries and forced some airlines to lease alternative aircraft. Further adding to the plane makers' woes several airlines have said they would seek compensation from Boeing.
The agency added the aircraft retained permission to fly up to 180 minutes over remote areas and oceans once US regulators cleared the Dreamliner's return to the skies.
There has been some talk about reduction in the approved range, known as ETOPS, which would have limited the use of the fuel-efficient jet.
According to Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney the 787's promised benefits remained fully intact and reaction in the industry was joyous.
Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said, the changes to the 787 battery would ensure the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.
The company's stock rose around 2 per cent yesterday following reports the 787 Dreamliner could be cleared to resume service within days. The FAA has called for installation of the new venting and containment systems to the main and auxiliary battery systems.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, a team of FAA certification specialists observed rigorous tests that Boeing was required to perform and devoted weeks to reviewing detailed analysis of the design changes to reach this decision.
The regulator added that it would monitor the changes.
''Any return to service of the modified 787 will only take place after the FAA accepts the work,'' the agency said in a statement. ''As the certifying authority, the FAA will continue to support other authorities around the world as they finalize their own acceptance procedures.''
Six new Boeing 787 Dreamliners flown by United Airlines were grounded by the FAA in January, following a series of incidents that cast doubts ove the safety of the high-tech plane. Aviation agencies in other countries too moved quickly to ground the airplane.