Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is poised to resume flights in Japan, ending a more than three-month hiatus that grounded 24 planes owned by All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL).
ANA said it will conduct the jet’s first test flight on Sunday, after Japan on Friday approved restart of the 787 flights with upgraded batteries. The government’s permission is for all flights, including test and commercial services, said Shigeru Takano, a director at the ministry’s Civil Aviation Bureau.
“We will ask Japanese airlines to ensure the safety of passengers and provide them with information,” Akihiro Ohta, Japan’s transport minister, told reporters in Tokyo.
ANA Chief Executive Officer Shinichiro Ito and Ray Conner, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, will be aboard the April 28 flight, the airline said Friday.
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The approval will kick-start resumption of flights with 787s, which were ordered parked on Jan. 16 after lithium-ion batteries on two Dreamliners overheated and melted. The grounding is the longest on a large commercial aircraft by U.S. regulators since jets were introduced in the 1950s.
Boeing dispatched about 300 personnel on 10 teams to airlines to install the fix over five days while preparing the handover of new 787s.
Ethiopian Airlines plans its first Dreamliner flight with the upgraded batteries Saturday, a trip from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya.
United Continental, the only U.S. carrier that has received Dreamliners, sent the first of its 787s to a Boeing facility in San Antonio this week to get the new system installed.
ANA began Dreamliner repairs this week at four airports around Japan, according to Ryosei Nomura, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based airline. JAL also started fixing the batteries.
ANA will conduct about 230 test flights for pilots with the upgraded 787s, said Hiroyuki Ito, a senior executive vice president. The carrier will also check battery systems after flights.
ANA said additional battery monitoring systems will also be installed on all 787’s to check in-flight performance and all batteries will be removed and inspected at designated intervals.
To reassure the public that the plane is safe, ANA has set up a website providing details on Boeing’s battery fix and progress on the airline’s retrofitting plan.
It does not yet give a date for resumption of 787 scheduled services.
ANA said that will come later, “once all necessary preparations are completed, and a review of seasonal flight schedules and other issues has been conducted.”
Neither the Federal Aviation Administration nor the National Transportation Safety Board has determined what caused the battery faults that sparked a Jan. 7 fire on a JAL 787 in Boston and forced an emergency landing by an ANA jet in Japan nine days later.
Japan will ask airlines to put in place a system to monitor the batteries in flight and transmit data to the ground, Ohta told reporters Friday.
Boeing’s reworked battery includes more protection around the cells to contain overheating, a steel case to prevent any fire from spreading and a tube that vents fumes outside the fuselage.
Information from Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates is included in this report.