WASHINGTON — Boeing has developed a plan that it intends to propose to federal regulators to temporarily fix problems with the 787 Dreamliner’s batteries that have kept the planes on the ground for more than a month, a congressional official said Wednesday.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner is expected to present the plan to Michael Huerta, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, in a meeting on Friday, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Boeing Co. spokesman Marc Birtel said the company doesn’t talk in advance about meetings with federal officials.
“Everyone is working to get to the answer as quickly as possible, and good progress is being made,” Birtel said.
The FAA and overseas aviation authorities grounded all 50 of the planes in service worldwide after a lithium-ion battery caught fire on a plane parked in Boston and a smoking battery led to an emergency landing by another plane in Japan. The 787 is Boeing’s newest and most technologically advanced plane. It was supposed to exemplify the future of commercial aviation, but the groundings have been a major public black
eye and financial drain for Boeing, which vies with Airbus for the position as the world’s largest commercial aircraft maker.
The plane is also the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium ion batteries to help power its electrical systems. Lithium ion batteries weigh less, charge faster and hold more energy than other batteries of comparable size. But they are also more susceptible to short-circuiting that can cause fires if they are damaged, have manufacturing flaws, are exposed to excessive heat or are overcharged.
Among the measures being discussed to make the batteries safe enough to return the 787 to the skies are adding more ceramic spacers between battery cells to contain any short-circuiting and fire within that cell. That would be in line with Boeing’s initial test results.