Boeing: Battery grounding slows 787-10X, 777X launch decisions

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Ray Conner says today that the fleet-wide grounding of the 787 due to battery malfunctions has delayed the schedule for launching the double-stretch 787-10X and the re-engined and re-winged 777X programmes.

"Clearly having the [787] fleet down right now has slowed things down a bit," says Conner, addressing a JP Morgan investor conference.

But otherwise Boeing has made no move to adjust plans to double the 787 production rate, deliver between 60 and 65 787s this year and introduce the 787-9 due to the grounding, Conner says.

The 320-seat 787-10X was on track to be launched as early as late January when the US Federal Administration grounded the 787-8 fleet due to two instances of overheated lithium-ion batteries on 16 January. The 777X programme was once expected to be launched at the end of 2012, but Boeing had already indefinitely postponed the project before the 787 battery problem surfaced.

But the 787-10X launch decision is still poised at the ready as soon as Boeing is cleared to return the 787 fleet to service.

"Hopefully we'll be able to bring that one forward soon," Conner says.

The timing depends on the response by US and Japanese regulators to Boeing's proposal for a "comprehensive" solution to the battery problem. Boeing has proposed adding new protections to prevent fires at the level of the battery cell, the overall battery and the battery compartments.

Boeing submitted the proposal to the FAA on 22 February, and Conner flew to Japan to present the same concept last week. He had just arrived from an all-night flight on 4 January before addressing the JP Morgan event.

The FAA's Transport Directorate in Seattle is expected to submit a report to Administrator Michael Huerta early this week. The report will contain the directorate's recommendations on whether to approve, modify or reject Boeing's proposed battery solution.