Dreamliner to start test flights soon, expert says

By Stacy

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- National Transportation Safety Board officials{}still don't know what caused the January fire aboard a Dreamliner at Logan Airport in Boston.

But,{}they do know it started in one of the battery cells, and what Boeing must do to correct the problem.

"Get this housing so very good and so completely fireproof that no matter what happens to those batteries, it will not get out," said Mary Schiavo, former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The NTSB released the interim{}report Thursday. Schiavo said it would push the Federal Aviation Administration to get Dreamliners back in the skies for testing without passengers.

"Until the NTSB issued something, Boeing didn't have any hope of getting their planes approved to make test flights," Schiavo said.

The report said prior testing of the Dreamliner was inadequate. It said Boeing had{}reported the probability "a battery could vent was once in every 10 million flight hours." Instead, two incidents happened in less than 52,000 hours.

Investigators sent a clear message to the airplane giant.

"When you go back to do the testing again, it has to be better," Schiavo said.

As for the{}North Charleston plant, she said production would continue, but customers wouldn't buy the grounded planes. She didn't{}think the batteries would be banned; she said they are too important for the development of aviation technology.

"The unusual thing is allowing their use, knowing they might have a thermal event," she said.

The NTSB said it will hold{}two meetings in April: first a forum in mid-April{}to explore the lithium-ion batteries, then an investigative hearing in late April focusing on the design and re-certification of the Dreamliner battery system.

The NTSB said its investigation continues.

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