Another issue that also appears to have taken Boeing off-guard is a report from Reuters that the FAA may be considering imposing a temporary restriction of the 787's extended twin operations (ETOPS) clearance as a result of the battery modification. The ETOPS clearance allows the twin-engine aircraft to operate up to 330 min. flying time from a primary or alternate airport. ETOPS approval is pivotal to the 787's viability because it allows the aircraft to be used over long routes traditionally reserved for three- and four-engine aircraft.
Calling the Reuters report “pure speculation,” Boeing says that VP/Chief Project Engineer Mike Sinnett's statements last month in Tokyo that “there will be no restrictions on the aircraft and no limit to ETOPS,” reflect the company's position. The FAA, which will only begin to review the data for compliance with the AD following the certification flight of Line No. 86, says it is premature to say if there will be any change to the current certification base of the 787.
Pending completion of certification and FAA approval for battery system modifications, Boeing aims to immediately restart production test flights at Everett, Wash., as well as its Charleston, S.C., production site. Several production test flights are also set for 787s that have been stored at a paint facility near Fort Worth for the duration of the grounding of the fleet that followed two separate battery failures in January.
Separately, the National Transportation Safety Board announced its upcoming forum, “Lithium-Ion Batteries in Transportation,” will be held on April 11-12. The NTSB event, which was announced on March 7 when it released its interim factual report on the Jan. 7 Japan Airlines' 787 battery fire investigation, will focus on design, development and performance of the batteries as well as related regulatory and safety aspects of the technology.