Washington: United States aviation regulators aren't pressing to get Boeing's 787 back into the air and won't let the grounded Dreamliner jet resume flights until they know it's safe, transportation secretary Ray LaHood said.
The transportation secretary gave no sign investigators are closer to discovering why lithium-ion batteries overheated on two 787s last month. That leaves murky at best the pathway for getting Boeing's most advanced jetliner airborne again.
All 50 Dreamliners in service around the world have been grounded since January 16 after an All Nippon Airways (ANA) 787 made an emergency landing because one of its lithium-ion batteries smoked and became charred. The US National Transportation Safety Board and its Japanese counterparts have few definitive clues into what caused that incident and a January 7 battery fire in a Japan Airlines plane on the ground in Boston.
"The worst scenario is you don't find anything," John Hansman, an aeronautics and astronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an interview.
"And if you don't find anything, you actually have to correct all the things it could possibly be, even though there's no direct evidence. That's more complicated and expensive."
The battery woes have left Boeing surrounded by uncertainty even as chief executive Jim McNerney said in a January 30 earnings call that progress toward finding a cause was being made. McNerney said Boeing hasn't seen anything that causes it to question its choice of lithium-ion batteries, which were approved by the FAA for the Dreamliner in 2007.
Boeing has continued production of the Dreamliner even though it can't deliver them because of the grounding. The company doubled 787 production last year to five a month and is set to double it again this year. Boeing rose $1 to $74.87 in New York trading on Friday.
Until regulators are satisfied with the jet's safety, none of the 787s, including a LOT Polish Airlines plane stranded in Chicago by the grounding, will be allowed into the air, LaHood said.
"We will continue to look at the entire plane with a focus on the batteries," he said. "People expect us to get this right. They don't want to fly in planes when there are issues."
The US Federal Aviation Administration, which certified the 787 as safe to fly before it entered service in 2011, is conducting a broad review of that decision and the plane's manufacturing.
"Those planes are not going to fly until we get