The global fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners is set to be grounded for a considerable time to come, after investigators said that they are still “weeks away” from finding a solution to the overheating batteries.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the battery fire onboard a JAL Dreamliner at Boston airport in January, said the probe still hadn’t got to the bottom of the electrical problem, which is believed to be causing the Dreamliner’s lithium-ion batteries to short-circuit.
“I think we are probably weeks away from being able to tell people here’s what exactly happened and what needs to change,” NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said at a briefing this week, adding that investigators are studying the batteries at a “microscopic level”.
In anticipation of a long lay-off, the Dreamliner’s biggest customer, ANA, announced this week that it is cancelling all Dreamliner flights until 30 March 2013. This extension will mean that ANA has cancelled more than 1,800 Dreamliner flights since the start of the grounding.
Boeing’s Dreamliner aircraft will soon take to the skies again however, after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accepted Boeing’s request to operate test flights using the aircraft. Tests will be permitted “in defined airspace over unpopulated areas”, according to the FAA. Boeing welcomed the decision, and said the test flights would “support the continuing investigations into the cause of the recent 787 battery incidents”.
“We are confident that 787 is safe to operate for this flight test activity,” company spokesperson Marc Birtel was reported saying.