The Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing confirmed Monday that the federal regulator is evaluating a request from the jetmaker to fly test flights of its 787 Dreamliner.
The FAA was expected to grant Boeing’s request sometime this week and a 787 could fly again soon after, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
The initial flight tests will gather data on the troubled lithium ion battery system, the cause of the worldwide fleet grounding that’s now into its third week.
Boeing also wants to test a potential fix, the sources said.
However, 787 passenger flights won’t resume soon. In airline service, the Dreamliner is still likely to stay grounded for weeks, if not months, two sources said.
Even when Boeing has a workable fix, its engineers will have to design, build and thoroughly test the solution.
The FAA ordered the grounding after two serious 787 battery incidents just over a week apart. First, a battery fire broke out on a parked 787 in Boston early last month. Eight days later, a smoldering battery forced a jet in flight to make an emergency landing in Japan.
One fix Boeing is looking at closely is a way to strengthen the lithium ion battery’s ability to contain any internal overheating and to improve the venting system whereby hot liquid or gaseous products exit the battery box and are directed outside the airplane, two sources said.
However, the initial flights will simply gather data on how the battery is affected by changes in temperature during the flight cycle and by vibrations during landing and take-off.
According to an industry source, one theory Boeing is investigating is that moisture getting inside the battery may have contributed to the recent incidents.
The National Transportation Safety Board, has so far given no indication that it has determined the root cause.