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Boeing asks permission to conduct 787 test flights

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

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Updated: March 7, 2013 6:29AM

Word Tuesday that Chicago-based Boeing Co. has asked government regulators to allow it to conduct test flights of its grounded 787 Dreamliner is being greeted as good news.

“That seems to say that the engineers have a good idea of what areas to stress-test, good news for all parties, including future passengers,” said Morningstar Inc. analyst Neal Dihora.

Boeing said Tuesday it submitted an application to conduct the test flights, but declined to provide more detail.

“The FAA is currently evaluating the request,” the agency said, also declining to provide more information.

Shares of Boeing closed up 68 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $75.89 Tuesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliners on Jan. 16, and regulators, including the NTSB, began investigating the lithium-ion batteries on the planes. Their actions and grounding of the next-generation planes by regulators globally followed a battery fire on a Japan Airlines 787 while it was empty of passengers and parked in Boston and after an emergency landing of an Al Nippon Airways 787 in Japan that occurred after its pilots smelled something burning and received a cockpit warning of battery problems.

The Japan Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that CAT scans and other analysis found damage to all eight cells in the lithium-ion battery that overheated on the ANA 787. They also found signs of short-circuiting and “thermal runaway,” a chemical reaction in which rising temperature causes progressively hotter temperatures. U.S. investigators found similar evidence in the battery that caught fire last month on the Japan Airlines 787.

The 787 is the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for its main electrical system. Such batteries are prone to overheating and have additional safeguards designed to prevent fires and contain a fire should one occur.

“It seems like they are circling in on a potential issue and makes sense that they want to test it in flight,” Dihora said of the latest developments. “It’s certainly positive for Boeing and could mean my $80 fair value has an upside.”

“Boeing has teams of hundreds of engineering and technical experts who are working around the clock with the sole focus of resolving the issue and returning the 787 fleet to flight status,” Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said. “Everyone is working to get to the answer as quickly as possible and good progress is being made.”

Contributing: AP

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