April 28, 2013 in Nation/World

Ethiopia flies first Dreamliner since grounding

Rodney Muhumuza Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

An Ethiopian Airliner 787 Dreamliner prepares to take off from Addis Ababa on Saturday, the first commercial flight by the Boeing aircraft since January.
(Full-size photo)

Boeing backs fixes

TOKYO – Boeing Co.’s chief engineer for the 787 Dreamliner said Saturday that changes to the lithium-ion battery system are fully sufficient to ensure the aircraft’s safety although the company has been unable to find the cause of the original battery failures earlier this year. Michael Sinnett gave a briefing on the battery in Tokyo.

The new battery system is designed to prevent a fire, and to contain one should it occur with a casing around the battery to prevent heat from being released in the aircraft, Sinnett said.

“Even if we never know the root cause, the enclosure keeps the airplane safe. It eliminates the possibility of fire, it keeps heat out of the airplane, it keeps smoke out of the airplane, and it ensures that no matter what happens to the battery, regardless of root cause, the airplane is safe,” he said.

KAMPALA, Uganda – A Boeing 787 operated by Ethiopian Airlines flew from Ethiopia to Kenya’s capital Saturday, the first commercial flight since air safety authorities grounded the Dreamliners after incidents with smoldering batteries on two different planes in January.

The Boeing 787 passenger jet arrived at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Saturday afternoon after a two-hour trip from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has approved Boeing’s redesigned battery system, which the company says sharply reduces the risk of fire.

There are 50 Dreamliners in service around the world.

Once the FAA approves the fix on individual planes, airlines can start flying them again.

United Airlines, the only U.S. airline with the planes, moved one of its six 787s to a Boeing facility in San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday so it can get the battery fixed. Neither of the battery incidents involved a United jet.

Boeing said Wednesday that deliveries of the 787 should resume in early May.

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