The transport ministry cleared Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners to resume flight Friday night, although Japanese airlines won’t put them back into service until June at the earliest.
The move follows the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to allow 787s to fly again effective Friday after approving Boeing’s modified battery system last week, even though the root cause of the problem has not been found. The battery glitch caused the 787 fleet to be grounded worldwide for more than three months,
All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines — which have more 787s than any other airlines in the world — have begun installing the modified lithium-ion battery on their planes. They are planning to conduct test flights using revamped 787s for at least a month before resuming commercial operations.
Ethiopian Airlines may resume 787 operations Saturday, while United Airlines, the only U.S. airline with 787s in its fleet, is looking to resume flights in late May.
U.S. and Japanese aviation authorities are still looking at why the batteries overheated on two Dreamliners in January. Some aviation experts say the probe will take up to a year, or that the cause may never be known.
Transport minister Akihiro Ota said Friday morning that multiple measures have been taken to eliminate fire risks, playing down any remaining safety concerns.
In an effort to restore the trust of the flying public, the ministry will ask ANA and JAL to apply voluntary safety measures, such as enhancing monitoring of battery voltage, Ota said.
At a two-day public hearing held through Thursday by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, a Boeing official said the company took the most appropriate measures to improve the safety of the airplane while admitting that the certification testing of the troubled battery might have been insufficient.
Aviation authorities worldwide grounded the 787 after one operated by ANA made an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport in Kagawa Prefecture on Jan. 16 due to smoke in the cockpit. Its lithium-ion battery was found to have overheated.
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