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Redesigned battery for grounded Boeing 787s may be installed within weeks

Bloomberg

Boeing Co. said Friday the proposed redesign of the 787 Dreamliner’s battery systems could be installed in aircraft within weeks, hoping to resume services of its flagship that has been grounded worldwide for two months.

The battery has additional safety measures but will undergo more rigorous tests before used in 787s, Boeing said in a statement distributed at a news conference in Tokyo.

Ray Conner, head of the company’s commercial planes division, told reporters the manufacturer of the batteries, GS Yuasa Corp., fully cooperated in the process. GS Yuasa shares rose to their highest level in a week on the comments from Boeing, whose proposed redesign of the devices was cleared by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday.

While it’s unclear when the 787 will carry passengers again, Boeing can limit the damage to its most sophisticated model from lithium-ion battery issues. The worldwide fleet of 49 Dreamliners has been parked since Jan. 16 after two incidents of batteries overheating.

Boeing will be allowed “limited test flights” with two 787s that will have prototype components of the new battery system, the FAA said Tuesday. Boeing must prove in flight and laboratory tests that the design meets U.S. standards, and the regulator said it could insist on further changes.

The cells will undergo a 14-day test with hourly discharge readings, and Boeing will narrow the battery-charge allowed, according to the statement issued Friday. Tests for the new battery started early last month, it said.

Boeing will maintain cooperation with Japanese manufacturers, Conner said at the news conference.

The share price of GS Yuasa, the battery maker at the center of the probe, rose as much as 2.9 percent, the most since March 8, and was changing hands at ¥447 as of 10:30 a.m. Friday in Tokyo. The stock has risen 25 percent this year.

Because investigators don’t know what triggered the incidents aboard a Japan Airlines Corp. 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport and an All Nippon Airways Co. flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Japan, the adjustments are designed to prevent every possible way the batteries can fail, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told Congress on Feb. 28.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t identified what triggered a short-circuit on the JAL battery that burst into flames shortly after landing. The board, which has no regulatory authority and no say on when the Dreamliner can resume services, issued an interim report March 7 raising new questions about how Boeing had initially determined the batteries were safe.

The FAA grounded 787s in the United States after the ANA Dreamliner made an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport, Kagawa Prefecture, on Jan. 16 because a battery overheated, emitting smoke and fumes. Aviation regulators around the globe quickly followed the FAA’s lead.

A separate FAA review of the 787′s design, manufacturing and assembly is currently under way.