Boeing Co. (BA:US)’s 787 Dreamliner is poised to resume flights in Japan, ending a more than three-month hiatus that grounded 24 planes owned by ANA Holdings Inc. (9202) and Japan Airlines Co. (9201)
ANA said it will conduct the jet’s first test flight on April 28, after Japan today 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.
The move 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.
ANA Chief Executive Officer Shinichiro Ito and Ray Conner, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, will be aboard the April 28 flight, the airline said in a statement today.
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 Enterprise plans its first Dreamliner flight with the upgraded batteries tomorrow, a trip from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya. United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL:US), 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.
Boeing, based in Chicago, rose 1.3 percent to $92.85 at the close in New York for a fourth straight daily gain. ANA, the biggest 787 operator, fell 0.5 percent to 209 yen at the close in Tokyo, while Japan Airlines, the second largest, gained 3.6 percent to 4,750 yen.
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, according to a person familiar with plan, who declined to be identified as the information isn’t public.
ANA will conduct about 230 test flights for pilots with the upgraded 787s, Hiroyuki Ito, a senior executive vice president, told reporters today. The carrier will also check battery systems after flights. Final checks are going on at five Dreamliners after battery fixes, Ito said.
The airlines received service bulletins on repairs from Boeing after it won approval from the FAA for the 787’s redesigned battery system. The cost for replacing the battery will be about $465,000 a plane in the U.S., FAA said yesterday. The battery fix adds about 150 pounds of weight to a 787.
Neither the FAA nor the NTSB 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 flights and transmit data to the ground, Ohta told reporters today.
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.
The Dreamliner is the only large commercial jet equipped with lithium-ion batteries as part of its power system. GS Yuasa Corp. (6674) makes the batteries, which are part of an electrical power conversion system built by France’s Thales SA. (HO) United Technologies Corp. (UTX:US)’s aerospace unit supplies the system, which uses enough electricity to power 400 homes.
Airbus SAS abandoned lithium-ion batteries for its A350, the direct rival to the 787, after the faults on the Dreamliner. Airbus plans its first A350 deliveries next year.
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