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FAA could decide on Boeing 787 Dreamliner solution next week: analyst

Updated: February 26, 2013 4:19PM



A response by regulators to a Boeing Co. plan to fix lithium-ion batteries on its troubled 787 Dreamliner should come by next week, and the grounded aircraft could be back in the air by mid-year, Cowen & Co. analyst Cai von Rumohr predicted in a research note Tuesday.

“We expect an FAA response within 10 days to Boeing’s proposed 787 battery fix,” he stated, adding the Federal Aviation Administration “may require changes and not accept the fix as permanent, but we think it will allow 787 flights to resume by midyear, with major changes, if any, made later.”

Von Rumohr cited four reasons for his expectations:

*The fix reduces risk.

*FAA’s mission is to encourage aviation.

*The FAA has been working with Boeing on the fix.

*The agency has lifted groundings when the cause was undetermined, but a risk-reducing fix was in hand.

On Friday, the FAA said it was reviewing a Boeing proposal and would analyze it further.

The agency stated at the time, “The safety of the flying public is our top priority and we won’t allow the 787 to return to commercial service until we’re confident that any proposed solution has addressed the battery failure risks.”

The FAA and Chicago-based Boeing declined to provide more detail on the proposed fix.

But Reuters reported last week that Boeing was proposing a long-term fix that included putting extra insulation between the cells of the airplane’s lithium-ion batteries, and installing a stainless steel box with a venting tube to stop the spread of any future battery fire. Reuters cited unnamed sources.

All 50 of the 787 jets in service around the world have been grounded for more than a month since a lithium-ion battery in a 787 operated by Al Nippon Airways overheated Jan. 16, forcing an emergency landing in western Japan. Earlier in January, a lithium-ion battery caught fire in a Japan Airlines 787 parked in Boston.

Regulators in the U.S. and Japan along with Boeing launched investigations last month.

Investigators have said the batteries experienced short-circuiting and thermal runaway, a chemical reaction that causes progressively hotter temperatures, but they haven’t found the root cause of the incidents.

The 787 is the first jet to extensively use lithium-ion batteries, which weigh less, charge faster and are more powerful than other kinds of batteries. Japanese manufacturer GS Yuasa makes the batteries for Boeing.

In other Boeing news, von Rumohr said a strike by Boeing’s technical workers is unlikely following their rejection of a contract proposal last week. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace had recommended that separate contract proposals covering 15,500 engineering and 7,400 technical workers be rejected. Technical workers voted down the contract offer by a 53 to 47 vote, “suggesting mediation talks can avert a strike,” von Rumohr stated in his research note.

The engineers ratified their contract proposal.



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