Within the last 24hrs, Boeing have announced that they expect their 787 Dreamliner to return to the skies ‘within weeks’ - even though they still can’t say for sure what caused recent problems with batteries overheating.
The 787 is ground-breaking in many way ways, not least for its use of lithium-ion batteries which are much lighter and more efficient than anything else currently in use. Michael Sinnett, Boeing’s chief project engineer for the 787 claims that the company has come up with a solution to prevent any future over-heating of the battery as well as ensure that, even if it did, the problem was safely contained. He was speaking in Japan where around half of the current operational 787s are based, with both All Nippon & JAL; in addition, around 25% of the aircraft is also made in Japan, including the batteries.
The 787 has been grounded around the world since January and Boeing, together with its many existing and future operators of the aircraft, such as British Airways, have been desperate to find a fix to the problem. For All Nippon, easily the current largest operator of the aircraft, it has meant significant losses, while for future customers, such as TUI, it has led to a degree of embarrassment as well as a scramble to scrub down older 767s.
However confident Boeing are about their fixes, and no matter how keen British Airways and other airlines are to get the aircraft back in the air, nothing will happen until the American FAA renews the 787′s air worthiness certificate, something they won’t do until every single box has been ticked.
British Airways has orders for 24 Dreamliners, split between 8 of the 787-8 model and 16 of the slightly larger 787-9 model. Deliveries of the 787-8 model are set to begin this year and, almost certainly, will be used to replace the airline’s oldest 767 aircraft on flights to the east coast of the USA. However, it is the later arrival of the 787-9 model (no date yet announced) that is far more exciting for the airline; with its new slots at Heathrow, British Airways will be looking to tap into growing long-haul destinations that can’t yet support the larger 777 or 747 and which would not have been financially viable with the gas guzzling 767. Such destinations might include Santiago de Chile & Bogota in South America, Saigon, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta in South East Asia together with numerous secondary cities in mainland China.