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Boeing Earnings Up, Company Stands By Battery

Boeing 787
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
Associated Press

The Boeing Co. said today that there has been no negative financial impact as a result of the FAA's grounding of the 787 Dreamliner. The news dampened a wave of speculation over the potential cost of its safety troubles with its 787 which was grounded two weeks ago.

Boeing's financial results showed the company did better in the last quarter of 2012 than analysts had expected. It reported a record backlog in its commercial airplanes division of $319 million, a sign of continued strong demand for the 787 Dreamliner and the 737, among others.

In a conference call with analysts and reporters, chief executive Jim McNerney said he was limited in what he could say publicly on the continuing investigation into fire in the 787's lithium-ion batteries. However, the company does stand by the choice of using the lithium-ion battery in the Dreamliner. "Nothing we have learned has told us that we've made the wrong choice on the battery technology," McNerney told reporters.

McNerney said Boeing has assigned hundreds of experts from across the company and from outside suppliers to assist investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to focus its investigation on the lithium-ion battery that has been at the center of the battery fire on a 787 at Logan airport. A recent NTSB report says the investigation of the battery "has transitioned from macroscopic to microscopic examinations."

Japanese transport safety authorities are focused on a battery smoke incident which forced the emergency landing of Japan Airlines plane. There is no news yet from either investigation as to the causes of the incidents, or what the solutions could be.

Spokesman Peter Knutson said the NTSB asked Boeing to provide full operating histories of the lithium-ion batteries used in its grounded 787 Dreamliners. A New York Times story today said Japan's All Nippon Airways had repeatedly replaced the batteries even before overheating problems surfaced.

In the conference call, Boeing said the rechargeable batteries were built to be replaced and that there was an expectation that they would be changed as a part of regular maintenance. However, replacements were occurring at a "slightly higher" rate than predicted.

Help Carolyn Adolph cover this story.