By Ben Mutzabaugh
Boeing may get the OK from U.S. regulators as early as next week for test flights of the 787 "Dreamliner" that would let Boeing evaluate its battery fixes for the jet, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday evening.
The newspaper cited no named sources, saying it got its information from "people familiar with the details."
Even if the Federal Aviation Administration does make that move next week, the Journal said it's unclear how soon the test flights might actually resume - though "early March" was suggested as a possibility in the Journal report.
The Journal wrote "an early March approval for test flights would indicate the FAA is prepared to sign off on Boeing's package of proposed fixes before an international probe pinpoints a specific root cause that led to burning batteries last month aboard a pair of 787s operated by Japanese carriers."
Still, the Journal adds that Boeing's "aggressive timetable" for test flights easily could slide if regulators need to be further convinced about the jetmaker's battery tweaks.
FAA and other regulators around the world grounded the 787 on Jan. 16 after an All Nippon Airways 787 made an emergency landing in Japan because of a smoldering battery. Another Dreamliner, owned by Japan Airlines, suffered a battery fire on the ground.
Boeing won permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct test flights Feb. 11 under special conditions, including that the planes fly over unpopulated areas.
Most airlines that have Dreamliners say they have removed the 787 from their flight schedules through the end of spring. One carrier - Polish carrier LOT - has taken the Dreamliner out of its schedules through October.