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Dreamliner conducts first Japan flight since grounding over batteries

AFP-JIJI

A Dreamliner carrying top executives of Boeing Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. landed at Haneda airport in Tokyo Sunday, the carrier said, three months after the worldwide fleet of 787s was grounded.

The test flight by ANA, a major purchaser of Boeing’s state-of-the-art Dreamliners, came a day after Ethiopian Airlines became the first carrier to resume flying the aircraft, which were grounded in January by battery-combustion problems.

ANA Chairman Shinichiro Ito and Boeing Chief Executive Ray Conner landed back in Tokyo at around 11 a.m. after a two-hour flight they hope will reassure passengers of the aircraft’s safety.

ANA has the world’s largest fleet of the next-generation planes, and the presence of both executives underscores their desire to put the damaging crisis behind them.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators grounded the Dreamliners after problems with the lithium-ion batteries caused a fire on board a plane parked in Boston and forced an ANA-operated aircraft to make an emergency landing in Shikoku.

After months of investigations, the FAA on Thursday formally approved Boeing’s battery fix, with Ethiopian Airlines on Saturday becoming the first carrier to reinstate the aircraft, on a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.

Speaking in Tokyo on Saturday, Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s chief project manager for the Dreamliner program, said the Japanese test flight reflects the faith the U.S. aircraft manufacturer placed in the battery fix.

“What it represents is . . . the depth of confidence that Ray Conner has in the series of design solutions we have brought forward,” Sinnett told reporters.

ANA and domestic rival Japan Airlines Co. account for around half the 50 Dreamliners in service worldwide, but it could still be at least a month before they can complete all the battery fixes and get their planes in the air.