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Boeing's Battery Fix: Containment

charred battery
NTSB Photo

  The National Transportation Safety Board says it still does not know the root cause of the battery fire that triggered the grounding of the Boeing Co. 787 fleet.

Boeing says the solution is containment: Stop any battery problem from leading to a fire by protecting individual battery cells from one another. With each cell isolated, the theory says, a short-circuit in one cell cannot spark a fire.

It's a strategy that allows Boeing to continue with its lithium-ion battery technology and potentially return the plane to service sooner than a redesign would allow. 

Now there are widespread media reports that the Federal Aviation Administration is preparing to let Boeing test the containment approach. An FAA spokesman said no decision had yet been reached.

Two months into their investigations, agencies in the U.S. and Japan have struggled to find a root cause of the two events that led to the grounding of Boeing's 787 fleet. Short of identifying a root cause, the NTSB is holding a forum in April. The question is how the FAA could have certified the aircraft in the first place, given the battery problems discovered later.

The grounding of the 787 fleet continues to cost its customers. LOT Polish Airlines tells the Associated Press it is losing $50,000 a day. A LOT spokesman told KUOW it will send Boeing the bill once the 787 is back in the air. Qatar Airways now says it too will seek compensation.