Boeing completes 787 battery modifications

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Boeing has finished installing modified lithium-ion batteries on all 50 787s delivered before two over-heating incidents prompted a three-month worldwide grounding last January.

Since the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the battery modification in late April, six of the eight 787 operators have returned to flying passenger flights. Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) are expected to resume passenger flights next week after a month-long flight test programme.

"We can't thank all of them enough for their patience, partnership and support over the past several months," says Boeing vice-president of marketing Randy Tinseth.

Boeing had dispatched hundreds of workers around the world to install the modified versions of both of the 787's lithium ion batteries. One battery is used to start up the auxiliary power unit and the other battery is used to supply power to the avionics system temporarily in the event that all six electrical generators on board the 787 stop working.

The 787 fleet was grounded after the APU battery overheated on a parked JAL 787 on 7 January, as well as a main battery failure on a flying ANA 787 nine days later.

Rather than replacing the battery with an all-new unit, Boeing instead decided to modify the existing battery to make it safer. The changes include improving the battery monitoring system, increasing the space between each of the batteries' eight lithium ion cells and enclosing the entire battery in a stainless steel box. Boeing also added vent ducts to the battery to channel any exhaust or smoke directly offboard the aircraft.

The FAA approved Boeing's battery fix in late April, even as the agency, Boeing and safety regulators in the USA and Japan continue searching for a root cause of the original over-heating incidents.