Ever since the battery fires aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft earlier this year, it appeared as though the Dreamliner was anything but a dream. After months of investigations, testing and modifications, Boeing and its luxury 787 Dreamliner jets appear to be finally ready for a second chance. Here’s a rundown of events from fires to flights:
Photo Credit: Kentaro IEMOTO@Tokyo (Creative Commons) Dreamliner Batteries Up in Smoke After the Jan. 7, 2013 battery fire aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport and another smoldering battery incident in Japan that caused an emergency landing, all 787 luxury aircraft were grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) until further notice. Over the course of the next few months, Boeing engineers conducted thorough testing in order to uncover the source of the battery problems. However, the heat of the fires reportedly destroyed much of the evidence, so the actual cause remains unclear. Boeing moved ahead with its plans for improving its lithium-ion batteries. The new design includes better insulation between the cells, a steel shell to block oxygen, and a titanium tube to eliminate flammable electrolytes, all of which Boeing said are supposed to make fires less likely or, if they do happen, easier to contain. FAA Approves Modifications The FAA officially approved the design changes on April 19, 2013, nearly four months after it grounded the Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplanes. The approval, however, only affects airlines in the U.S., and the only one to operate 787s in its fleet is United Airlines. Even with this approval, the FAA will still have to approve the repairs to the aircraft. The agency said it will place inspectors at each of the locations conducting modifications, and only after the inspector approval will the planes be cleared for flight. As part of the inspection process, the airlines will be required to install containment and venting systems for the batteries and to implement the modified components for the batteries and their chargers. Currently, there are 50 Dreamliner planes in service worldwide, and Boeing reports that it has 840 more purchase orders for the aircraft. The 787 could resume flights as early as May.