engineers have started installing the battery fix kits which will return its grounded fleet of to operations.
According to Larry Loftis, vice president and general manager of the 787 Program at Boeing, engineers began working on 787s in Japan on April 22. The kits, which take five days to install, are being fitted to aircraft in the sequence of their delivery, with All Nippon Airlines andbeing the first to benefit from the program.
According to Loftis, speaking at a press conference in London, the company is deploying 300 engineers, in 10 teams, to sites around the world to fix the 50 787s currently on the ground.
The fix, certified by theon April 19, uses a 1/8 in. stainless steel box to hold the batteries. Along with wiring and venting, the kit adds a 150 lb. weight penalty.
The move comes just over three months after the 787 was grounded following battery failures on a Japan Airlines aircraft atInternational Airport Jan. 7, and on an flight which diverted to Takamatsu Airport during a Jan. 15 flight from Tokyo’s to Yamaguchi Ube Airport in western Japan.
“We have been in constant communication with airlines,” said Loftis. “We will support whatever and wherever the airlines want us to do the mods.”
“We are committed to work on the airplanes wherever they want us to do it,” he added.
Loftis said the crisis had not impacted any plans to ramp up production of the aircraft or new developments, such as the stretched -9. The company plans to produce 10 aircraft a month by the end of the year. Work on an initial ramp-up to seven aircraft per month has started, with the first aircraft in that phase now on the production line.
The first -9 aircraft is set to go through final assembly in May. The new containment system will be incorporated into the new variant prior to its first flight.
Work is now underway to correct the delivery schedule. Production of the aircraft has continued throughout the grounding; according to the Aviation Week Intelligence Network fleets database, some 34 aircraft that were either awaiting delivery when the crisis began, or which have been assembled over the past four months, also need to be modified.
“We are in conversations right now, but there is no firm delivery schedule laid out,” said Loftis, but he added that he was confident that the first delivery would be “within weeks.”
“Our plan right now is that all the airplanes we planned to deliver in 2013 will be delivered in 2013,” he added.
With the certification of the fix behind it, the company also is using the downtime to install several other fixes and procedural changes to the aircraft which have affected availability. It also plans to restart “dialogue” with the FAA on the aircraft’s 330 min. extended twin engine operations capability. The 180 min. capability has been retained with the battery fix certificate.
Work is also continuing to reduce the weight of the modification.
Loftis said he was so confident of the fix that he would happily put his family on the aircraft. Even though a root cause continues to elude engineers, Loftis says the containment method is “more robust” than simply fixing the root cause, but adds that the company is still open to ideas for new design solutions.
“We have encompassed the known universe of potential causes,” explained Loftis. “If a root cause is defined, the first thing we will do is ask how our design solution fits, and if the answer doesn’t fit, we will aggressively pursue new design solutions for it.
“We are more than willing to do that,” he said.