WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Boeing plan to redesign the 787 Dreamliner's fire-plagued lithium-ion batteries won approval Tuesday from the Federal Aviation Administration, moving the cutting-edge planes a step closer to flying passengers again.
The plan includes changes to the internal battery components to minimize the possibility of short-circuiting, which can lead to overheating and cause a fire. Among the changes are better insulation of the battery's eight cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system, the FAA said in a statement.
The FAA statement didn't provide an estimate for when the grounded planes might return to service. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., who was briefed by the agency, said that if all goes well, the FAA could give final approval by mid- to late April for the 787 to resume flight.
Boeing would still have to retrofit the 50 planes already delivered to eight airlines in seven countries, Larsen said in an interview. That could mean the plane wouldn't return to the skies until late April or early May, he said.
First, Boeing's redesigned batteries have to pass a series of 20 separate lab tests, Larsen said, then flight tests would follow.