US aircraft regulators have approved a revamped battery design for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, prompting the possibility of the ill-feted fleet returning to the skies after months of being grounded.
The Federal Aviation Administration said airlines needed to replace the batteries to return to service. It is due to publish a notice lifting the grounding order next week, meaning its planes could be back in the sky by the summer.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said: "Safety of the travelling public is our number one priority. These changes to the 787 battery will ensure the safety of the aircraft and its passengers"
The 787, which has a list price of $207m, represents a leap in the way planes are designed and built, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays. All of the 50 Boeing 787 planes in service were grounded in mid-January after their lithium-ion batteries emitted smoke on several separate occasions. It led to regulators taking the unprecedented step of launching a review for an aircraft they had originally approved. That move came in the wake of five reported incidents in under a week including an electrical fire, brake problems, reports of cracked windscreens and an oil leak.