POSTED: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 6:30am
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - 6:34am
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday approved a proposed remedy for problems that triggered battery fires and led to the grounding of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, but the company must still demonstrate its approach will ensure safety before those planes can fly again.
The agency said it had signed off on a certification plan by the world's biggest aircraft manufacturer to redesign the wide body's lithium-ion battery system.
"The certification plan is the first step in the process to evaluate the 787's return to flight and requires Boeing to conduct extensive testing and analysis to demonstrate compliance with the applicable safety regulations and special conditions," the FAA said in a statement.
Boeing's newest and most advanced commercial jetliner was grounded in January by regulators worldwide after two battery-related fires damaged 787s in Boston and in Japan. No passengers or crew were hurt in either incident.
There are only 50 787s flying worldwide, but Boeing has orders for several hundred and fixing the problem is a top priority.
"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 planned remedy includes a redesign of internal battery components to minimize chances of a short circuit. It also involves better insulation of cells and adding a new containment and venting system.
The FAA will approve the redesign only if the company successfully completes all required tests and analysis to demonstrate the new design complies with federal safety requirements.