Boeing just flew the flight it needed to certify the improved battery housing on its 787 Dreamliner, whose battery woes have marred the next generation plane's launch. Here is Flight Aware's live data map, showing the path of BOE272, the test flight from Friday afternoon.
On thursday, Bloomberg reported that the 787's recertification flight was pending. A Boeing news release stated yesterday that the, "...flight departed from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. at 10:39 a.m. Pacific with a crew of 11 onboard, including two representatives from the FAA. The airplane flew for 1 hours and 49 minutes, landing back at Paine Field at 12:28 p.m. Pacific."
The plane's original battery setup, if you'd forgotten, postponed what was to be a major advancement in the aviation world. After a fire erupted in the battery compartment on a parked 787 at the Boston airport and an overheating battery resulted in the emergency landing of a second in Japan, the future of commercial aerospace was quickly shelved.
Boeing has since flown with the new battery system, and last Monday, took its first test flight since the 787 grounding in mid-January. Plane #86, painted in LOT Polish's livery, has taken other test flights, earlier this week. But these flights were tests for mechanical functionality, and a flight Wednesday afternoon was taken to test for component reliability.
In anticipation of upcoming hearings with the NTSB in three weeks (April 23rd and 24th), Boeing needs certification for the improved battery compartment on the plane, which the FAA approved for testing a month ago. Boeing CEO Ray Conner listed the improvements in a news release upon gaining the approval:
- Improved design features of the battery to prevent faults from occurring and to isolate any that do.
- Enhanced production, operating and testing processes to ensure the highest levels of quality and performance of the battery and its components.
- In the unlikely event of a battery failure, we've introduced a new enclosure system that will keep any level of battery overheating from affecting the airplane or being noticed by passengers.
These are the critical list-items Boeing must check off before getting the 50-odd 787s around the world back in the air and carrying passengers. With the National Transportation Safety Board's demand to see Boeing fly a 787 that is less prone to sudden battery meltdowns, the manufacturer has been running tests, preparing to exhibit a functioning plane.
While the problem has obviously not been something Boeing wanted with the launch of an entirely new (and extremely high-tech) airframe, production never stopped, and the test flight suggests the manufacturer is nearing a solution, although we won't know until Boeing announces how it went. Still, with over 800 planes on back order and more than 40 inventoried, you can be sure that Boeing is hustling to keep moving those enormous composite bodies down the line.