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FAA denies report that Boeing 787 fix test flights near

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

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Updated: April 1, 2013 7:31AM

The Federal Aviation Administration says it is not close to approving test flights of Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner with a proposed Boeing fix for the aircraft’s lithium-ion batteries.

The agency was responding to a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday that federal regulators have been working to give Chicago-based Boeing Co. the OK for airborne tests of proposed battery fixes as early as next week, though the actual test flights aren’t likely to come that quickly. The newspaper cited unnamed sources familiar with the details.

“Reports that we are close to allowing 787 test flights are completely inaccurate,” spokeswoman Laura Brown said in an email statement to the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday.

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Friday, the FAA said it was reviewing a Boeing proposal and would analyze it further.

The FAA and Chicago-based Boeing declined to provide more detail on the proposed fix. But Reuters reported last week that Boeing was proposing a long-term fix that included putting extra insulation between the cells of the airplane’s lithium-ion batteries, and installing a stainless steel box with a venting tube to stop the spread of any future battery fire. Reuters cited unnamed sources.

Boeing declined comment on the Wall Street Journal’s Tuesday report. But the company said in an email statement Wednesday, “Following our productive meeting with the FAA Administrator and Deputy Transportation Secretary on Friday to discuss the company’s proposal to address the 787 battery issue, we are encouraged by the progress being made toward resolving the issue and returning the 787 to flight for our customers and their passengers around the world.”

All 50 of the Dreamliner jets in service around the world have been grounded for more than a month since a lithium-ion battery in a 787 operated by Al Nippon Airways overheated Jan. 16, forcing an emergency landing in western Japan. Earlier in January, a lithium-ion battery caught fire in a Japan Airlines 787 parked in Boston.

Regulators in the United States and Japan along with Boeing launched investigations last month.

Investigators have said the batteries experienced short-circuiting and thermal runaway, a chemical reaction that causes progressively hotter temperatures, but they haven’t found the root cause of the incidents.

The 787 is the first jet to extensively use lithium-ion batteries, which weigh less, charge faster and are more powerful than other kinds of batteries. Japanese manufacturer GS Yuasa makes the batteries for Boeing.

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