(Adds comment from FAA, United Airlines in paragraphs 6-7)
By Alwyn Scott
WASHINGTON May 28 The U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration on Wednesday approved extended operations for
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, a move that will allow a wider
range of routes and that marks a vote of confidence in the
high-tech jet at a time of renewed scrutiny.
The approval, known as ETOPS, will allow airlines to fly
routes that are up to 330 minutes, or 5-1/2 hours, away from a
landing field, versus the 180-minute, or three-hour, limit in
place since the Dreamliner was launched in 2011.
"Granting of the expanded operational permission will allow
airlines to introduce additional routes after they meet the
proof of capabilities requirements and receive approval from
their own regulatory agencies," Boeing said.
The FAA approval formally applies only to U.S. carriers, and
within that group only United Airlines now operates the
787. But regulators in other countries typically follow the
FAA's lead. Airlines apply their own rules for extended
operations and could take time to actually begin flying those
"Airline approval is a completely different process and it
can vary airline by airline," said Boeing spokeswoman Lori
United Airlines called the approval "a positive development"
but said there was no immediate effect on its routes.
The FAA said its decision reflected the 787's "reliability
history" and Boeing's "effectiveness at addressing relevant
issues during 250,000 hours of service" for each of the plane's
two engine types.
Last week, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board
urged further testing for the 787 to ensure that large
lithium-ion batteries the plane uses are safe from overheating
The NTSB recommendations came even before it had finished
investigating what caused a battery to burn on a Japan Airlines
Co 787 in January 2013. Another battery overheated on
an All Nippon Airways plane later the same month,
prompting regulators to ground the global fleet until April that
year. Boeing redesigned the battery and charger and designed a
steel box to contain fires and vent hot gasses outside the
The NTSB said tests originally devised to ensure the
batteries were safe were insufficient, since they did not
produce the conditions that occurred in the actual battery
incidents. The board also said outside experts should be
consulting in designing tests.
The NTSB recommendations "are logical because we don't know
yet what were the root cause or causes," said Hans Weber, a
former FAA adviser and president of TECOP International, an
aerospace consulting firm based in San Diego, California.
The FAA approval nevertheless moves airlines an important
step closer to tapping the full potential of the Dreamliner,
which burns 15 percent less fuel than the Boeing 767.
The approval was of little concern to investors, one Wall
Street analyst said. Boeing's stock was up 0.4 percent at
But the approval appeared to come sooner than expected and
its timing was seen by some as a sign of continuing tension
between the two agencies, one charged with investigating
accidents and the other with ensuring safety.
"It certainly does seem like there's some conflict between
the NTSB and the FAA," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at the
Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.
(Additional reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Marguerita Choy
and Eric Walsh)