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NEW YORK, Feb 18 AFP

February 19 2013, 08:23AM

US aerospace giant Boeing is believed to be considering a temporary fix to protect its 787 Dreamliner if its batteries overheat or catch fire.

Boeing's flagship new jet has been banned from flight worldwide since the middle of last month after battery smoke forced an emergency landing of one plane and a battery fire was reported on a parked jet.

The company has stood by the safety of the lithium-ion batteries used in the plane, pending the results of an official investigation, but the Seattle Times reports the company is looking for an interim solution.

The paper, which covers a region including a Boeing plant, says Boeing may encase the battery cells in a titanium or steel box fitted with a high pressure vent to contain any fire that erupts in flight.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is refusing to comment on the report, which the paper says came from people familiar with the plan.

Boeing says the report is speculative and contains unspecified errors.

The Dreamliner, a long-haul fuel-efficient airliner built using the latest composite materials, is key to Boeing's business strategy as it battles to be top dog in the virtual duopoly it shares with rival Airbus.

Airbus insiders have told AFP the European giant has dropped plans to use lithium-ion batteries in its future 787 rival, the A350.

According to the reports, Boeing hopes its interim plan to shield the plane from battery fires will convince US safety authorities to allow the 50 jets grounded around the world to return to service by May at the earliest.