FAA OKs plan to fix 787 batteries, tests pending

WASHINGTON (AP/WCIV) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Boeing's plan to fix lithium ion batteries installed in the company's 787 Dreamliners, officials said Tuesday afternoon.

The fire-prone batteries have been a thorn in the company's side as it has seen its entire fleet of new aircraft grounded until the battery issue can be fixed.

The FAA released a statement on Tuesday, saying Boeing will have to show that the company's plan to fix the batteries comply with all safety regulations.

"This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We won't allow the plane to return to service unless we're satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers."

The battery system improvements include a redesign of the internal battery components to minimize initiation of a short circuit within the battery, better insulation of the cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system.

"We are confident the plan we approved today includes all the right elements to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the battery system redesign," said FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. "Today's announcement starts a testing process which will demonstrate whether the proposed fix will work as designed."

The plan establishes specific pass/fail criteria, defines the parameters that should be measured, prescribes the test methodology and specifies the test setup and design. FAA engineers will be present for the testing and will be closely involved in all aspects of the process.

The FAA also has approved limited test flights for two 787s. The aircraft{}will have the prototype versions of the new containment system installed, the FAA said.

"The purpose of the flight tests will be to validate the aircraft instrumentation for the battery and battery enclosure testing in addition to product improvements for other systems," the agency said.

The 787 fleet worldwide has been grounded since Jan. 16, following a battery fire on a Dreamliner parked in Boston and a smoking battery that led to emergency landing by other another 787 in Japan.

Stay with for more on this developing story.