Boeing to present 787 interim solution to customers

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Boeing will brief the 787's customers tomorrow in Seattle on the interim fix that it has proposed for the still-undiagnosed battery problems, which have grounded the worldwide fleet since 16 January.

This will give existing operators like All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and Air India, a clearer indication of when they will be able to resume operations, say industry sources. Airlines which are set to receive their first 787 in the coming months, including Qantas and China Southern, will also hear what will be done to fix their aircraft before delivery.

"All of the 787 operators will be in Seattle. They will get a better idea of what led to the problems and get some clarification on what comes next for the aircraft," says an executive from a 787 operator who did not want to be identified.

The meeting with customers comes after Boeing presented an interim solution to the US Federal Aviation Administration's head Michael Huerta and deputy transportation secretary John Porcari on 22 February.

Under their plan, which the FAA is expected to respond to - and most likely approve - on Monday, 4 March 2013, the 787 could resume operational service as early as late March.

Boeing's solution reportedly involves putting more space between the eight cells of the 32V lithium-ion battery made by GS Yuasa, improving the containment around the battery and venting any smoke or exhaust from the battery directly off board the aircraft.

The changes appear to be aimed at preventing the thermal runaway condition that investigators in Japan and the USA have detected on two batteries that failed on different flights in January.

The ongoing investigation is still trying to understand what caused a short circuit to occur, which led to the thermal runaway problem. Under Boeing's proposal, the battery should not catch fire even if one of the cells experiences a short circuit.

Boeing has continued building 787s at a rate of five per month, with an escalation planned to 10 per month by the end of the year.