* Still uncertain when 787 will restart flights - ANA
* ANA expects installation of new batteries will take a
* No plans to change order for 66 Dreamliners
* ANA expects 10 Dreamliner deliveries in year from April 1
By Tim Kelly and Kentaro Sugiyama
TOKYO, March 19 Boeing Co's goal to have
its grounded 787 Dreamliner jets back in the air within weeks is
a best-case scenario and too uncertain for the aircraft's
biggest customer to plan the plane's operational return to
All 50 of the technologically-advanced 787s in service have
been idled since mid-January following two battery incidents at
a U.S. airport and on a domestic flight in Japan. Boeing last
week unveiled a new battery system and predicted the 787 would
fly again within weeks rather than months.
Asked whether Boeing was presenting a best-case scenario,
Osamu Shinobe, the architect of All Nippon Airways'
strategy to put the fuel-efficient 787 at the centre of the
airline's fleet planning, said "That's what we understand it to
"The problem is we don't know how long the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) will take to finish its checks (on the new
battery system)," he told Reuters in an interview. Shinobe, who
joined ANA from college in 1976, will run the carrier from April
following a switch to a holding company structure.
For Boeing to meet its target, Shinobe explained the
planemaker needs to complete certification testing this week,
gain quick FAA approval followed by an airworthiness directive
soon after. It would then have to transport all the parts and
equipment to 787s parked around the world to begin installing
the new batteries. Boeing has said that could take a week per
"If that happens, then what Boeing is saying is not a lie,"
said Shinobe, 60, noting it could take a month to put the new
battery systems on all ANA's 17 Dreamliners, with Boeing likely
to work on three jets at a time.
Twelve of ANA's 787 planes are parked in Tokyo, with another
four at regional airports in Japan and one in Frankfurt. Each
will be fixed at its current location. ANA has canceled more
than 3,600 domestic and international flights since the 787 was
grounded through to end-May.
On Friday in Tokyo, Boeing unveiled a new fire-proof battery
packed with added insulation, heat-resistant material and
spacers and encased in a steel box. The aircraft maker has also
added a specialized pipe to vent gases produced by any
overheating directly outside the aircraft.
The FAA last week approved Boeing's plan to test its new
battery for certification. Boeing said it finished three tests
of the new system and was performing three more in cooperation
with the FAA, allowing it to estimate when the plane would be
back in the air. The head of Boeing's commercial aircraft
company, Ray Conner, briefed Shinobe on the battery fix in Tokyo
Boeing's prediction drew scepticism from some regulators and
industry experts, who said it was too early to say when the
Dreamliner would fly again with the root cause of the battery
overheating still unknown.
Boeing also faces public hearings next month on the safety
of its batteries. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board
is looking into what caused the battery failures and the
original process used to certify the power packs.
Japan's Civil Aviation Bureau said it was "inappropriate"
for Mike Sinnett, the 787's chief engineer, to have said the
cause of the overheating may never be discovered.
Once regulators approve the battery fix, Boeing plans to
install the new system in its 787s in the order they were
delivered, with ANA heading the queue.
Shinobe said ANA has no plans to change its outstanding
orders for another 66 Dreamliners, and expects to take delivery
of 10 new planes in the next 12 months. Rival Japan Airlines Co
has seven Dreamliners, with another 38 on order.
(Editing by Ian Geoghegan)