US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Michael Huerta confirms that the Boeing 787's extended operations (ETOPS) certificate is being reviewed separately from the battery redesign investigation.
Addressing a Senate Commerce committee panel on the three-month anniversary of the Boeing grounding, Huerta's remarks clarified for the first time that Boeing has been answering the FAA's questions on two key fronts.
Boeing not only has to prove to the FAA that the 787 battery redesign and new containment system is safe enough. The company also has satisfy the agency that the 787 is reliable enough to fly routes that take the twinjet up to 180min away from an eligible runway.
The ETOPS certification is essential for most airlines that fly the aircraft on routes over the war or even overland in remote areas of Australia.
"Coincident with [the battery] review was a review where we went back and looked at our original determination relating to ETOPS flight," Huerta told lawmakers.
"The question there is the airplane when it was grounded was certified for ETOPS of 180min," he says. "And so the question for us was would we return it at that level."
Boeing has now completed a set of 20 ground and flight tests overall on the redesigned lithium-ion battery and new containment system, Huerta says. The company provided the FAA with a "very extensive" pile of documents, which the agency is continuing to review, he adds.
As the agency continues to review the documentation, Boeing and airlines have been preparing to return to flight with the 787 within weeks. It takes about three or four days to install the new battery on each aircraft. The installations are planned to occur roughly in sequence of the original order of delivery to airlines, with All Nippon Airways and Japan Air Lines receiving the majority of the early aircraft.