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Ethiopian Airlines resumes Dreamliner flights

Company becomes first to resume commercial flighs after a three-month grounding due to lithium-ion battery problems.

Last Modified: 27 Apr 2013 12:34
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Japan's All Nippon Airways will conduct around 230 test flights before allowing passengers on board [Reuters]

Ethiopian Airlines became the world's first carrier to resume flying Boeing's Dreamliner, after the aircraft was grounded for nearly three months due to lithium-ion battery problems.

The flight, to neighbouring Kenya on Saturday, landed a day after Japanese and US authorities gave approval for flights to resume.

The grounding came after a battery fire on a parked Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport and an incident in which battery smoke forced an emergency landing of an All Nippon Airways 787 in Japan.

A test flight by All Nippon Airways (ANA) on Sunday will be the first of around 230 flights the airline has planned before allowing the jet to carry passengers.

Ray Connor, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and Shinichoro Ito, chief executive of ANA Group, will be on board the test flight.

ANA has yet to decide when commercial flights would restart, said Osamu Shinobe, president of ANA, but he reiterated the Dreamliner would remain a core part of its fleet strategy.

"I believe that safety has been secured now, but only by flying the 787 smoothly will we be able to demonstrate its safety and reassure our passengers," Hiroyuki Ito, ANA senior executive vice president, told reporters.

Local rival Japan Airlines Co Ltd said it would start its own test programme from May with the aim of using the jets to carry passengers again from June.

"We have had this trouble with the 787, but it is a great aircraft," JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki told reporters. JAL has seven Dreamliner planes.

Meeting safety standards

Boeing Co. said on Saturday that it is ready to build seven 787 Dreamliners a month from mid-year and is still on course for 10 per month by the end of the year.

ANA, which has 17 Dreamliner jets, has not said how much the grounding has cost the company, though it has said it was losing $868,300 in revenue per plane in the last two weeks of January.

ANA will renew compensation talks with Boeing after it resumes commercial flights and is able to calculate total losses, the company said.

In addition to the battery fix approved by US authorities, Japan's Civil Aviation Bureau has requested airlines meet the country's own safety standards when flying the 787, which include monitoring the battery current while the jet is in the air and checking used batteries.

Teams of Boeing engineers began installing reinforced batteries on Dreamliners owned by ANA on Monday. The airline hopes to complete retrofitting its entire fleet by mid-May. 

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