* Changes not finalized - paper
* Best-case scenario has flights resuming next month
* FAA clears one-off 787 "ferry" flight
* 787 launch customer ANA cancels 1,887 flights for March
* Japan's major airlines unaware of Boeing's battery plans
Feb 6 Boeing Co is working on battery
design changes that would minimize fire risks on its grounded
787 Dreamliner and could have the passenger jet flying again as
soon as March, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Separately, U.S. aviation regulators said they would allow
Boeing to make a one-off 787 flight from Texas to the aircraft
maker's facility in Washington State, under strict conditions.
Boeing said the plane, scheduled for delivery to China Southern
Airlines, would be a "ferry" flight - used to
relocate a plane without carrying passengers or conducting
Regulators around the world grounded the technologically
advanced 787 in mid-January after a battery fire in Boston and a
second incident involving a battery on a flight in Japan.
Boeing is looking at changes within the 787's lithium-ion
battery to keep heat or fire from spreading, though technical
details have not yet been finalized or approved, the Wall Street
Journal reported, citing unnamed government and industry
officials. One of the paper's sources added that, under a
best-case scenario, passenger flights could resume in March.
The Dreamliner's launch customer All Nippon Airways Co Ltd
, which has the biggest fleet of the 250-seat planes,
said it will cancel 1,887 flights, affecting more than 25,000
passengers, from March 1 to 30. The airline said on Thursday it
had no information on Boeing's latest battery plans.
Boeing declined to comment on the newspaper report. GS Yuasa
Corp, the Japanese firm that makes batteries for the
787, also declined to comment.
Air safety investigators from the United States and Japan
have been investigating the battery incidents for three weeks.
On Wednesday, the head of the U.S. National Transportation
Safety Board (NTSB) said it was "probably weeks away" from
completing its probe.
The NTSB is conducting the U.S. probe with help from Boeing,
GS Yuasa, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and battery
experts from other U.S. federal agencies. No one has yet
identified what caused the battery failures.
In Tokyo, one official said Japanese regulators had not been
notified of any breakthrough in the U.S. battery investigation.
"The investigation will continue as scheduled. Resuming flights
in March ... seems far too optimistic to me," said the official
who didn't want to be named as the investigation is ongoing.
One source familiar with the investigation told Reuters that
Boeing engineers sprang into action "almost immediately" after
the first battery incident to ensure the company could meet
special FAA-approved conditions to allow lithium-ion batteries
on the aircraft. "They can't afford to sit around with their
planes on the ground," said the source, who was not authorized
to speak publicly.
Boeing was pursuing multiple solutions to mitigate and
contain a fire if one started in the batteries, part of a
determined effort to get the 787s back in the air while a more
permanent solution - possibly even a different battery - was
Three or four different approaches would be pursued to
ensure the batteries did not breach their containment systems,
even if they caught fire, said the source.
Boeing asked the FAA this week for permission to conduct new
test flights of the 787, suggesting it is making progress in
finding a solution to the problems, but the government agency
has not yet announced a decision.
While that request is pending, the FAA said on Wednesday it
would allow a one-time 787 "ferry" flight. The plane, with a
minimum crew, would have to land immediately if the flight
computer displays any battery-related messages. It was not
immediately clear when the flight would take place.
Some 50 Dreamliners have been grounded while investigators
try to solve the battery mystery.
Japan Airlines Co Ltd said this week it will talk
to Boeing about compensation for the 787's grounding, which it
expects to cost nearly $8 million from lost earnings through
March. ANA has said it would seek compensation from Boeing once
the amount of damages was clearer.
JAL said on Thursday it was also unaware of any Boeing plans
to test new batteries.