All Nippon Airways, the largest 787 user is giving a real boost to Boeing‘s efforts for bringing the Dreamliner aircraft back to skies. It also has a real symbolic meaning as All Nippon Airways undertook a huge financial cost, by keeping the airplanes grounded:
All Nippon Airways, the largest operator of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners, made its first test flight Sunday of a jet fitted with fortified batteries. The two-hour trip is expected to pave the way for a full resumption of flights three months after burning batteries on two planes grounded the entire 787 global fleet. A 787 carrying top executives from Boeing and All Nippon took off amid clear skies from Haneda Airport on Tokyo’s waterfront Sunday morning and landed, apparently without incident, after a flight of about two hours. In the past week, regulators in the United States, Europe and Japan have all signed off on the battery fixes. Smaller airlines are already moving ahead in reintroducing the jet to their fleets, including Ethiopian Airlines, which used a 787 Saturday on a two-hour commercial flight from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya. But the resumption of 787 flights at All Nippon and Japan Airlines, which together own half the 50 Dreamliner jets Boeing has so far delivered, will prove the real test of whether the modified batteries will eliminate further mishaps, as well as passenger response. Both airlines have said they hope to resume scheduled commercial flights in June. All Nippon said it may introduce Dreamliners on some flights before then.
More importantly, Ethiopian Airlines open the road for the 787 aircraft to fly again, with the first commercial flight since last January:
An Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner has flown from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, the first commercial flight by the Boeing aircraft since all 787s were grounded in January. The 50 planes around the world were grounded due to battery malfunctions that saw one 787 catch fire in the US. Over the past week teams of Boeing engineers have been fitting new batteries to the aircraft. This was after aviation authorities approved the revamped battery design. The Ethiopian Airlines plane took off at 09:45 local time (07:45 GMT) and landed in Nairobi, Kenya, some two hours later. Each 787 has two of the lithium-ion batteries which caused problems. In addition to new versions of the batteries which run at a much cooler temperature, the batteries are now enclosed in stainless steel boxes. These boxes have a ventilation pipe that goes directly to the outside of the plane. Boeing says this means than in the unlikely event of any future fire or smoke, it would not affect the rest of the aircraft. Boeing said it put 200,000 engineer hours into fixing the problem, with staff working round the clock.
On the other hand, the 787 flights are following an FAA directive which outlines the battery system’s modifications which are necessary for the Dreamliner aircraft in order to fly safely again:
The move follows the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration posting a directive outlining the modifications necessary for the Dreamliner to fly again. Japan this week authorized its passenger airlines to resume Dreamliner flights, but it wasn’t clear when they they would reinstate the aircraft. The Dreamliner’s use of lightweight composite materials to greatly improve fuel economy has made it a big seller in Asia and the Middle East, where long-haul flights account for much of an airline’s business. United Airlines, which has six Boeing 787 aircraft, is the only U.S. airline to take delivery of the Dreamliner so far. It will cost the airline about $2.8 million to implement the fix, according to the FAA’s Federal Register filing. The company plans to begin domestic flights using the 787 in May and possibly launch the Denver-Narita, Japan, route on June 10.
It is also important to be mentioned that the 787 airplanes are going to be fixed by Boeing according to the order they were commercially delivered to airline companies:
Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Tewolde GebreMariam was on board the company’s Saturday flight, and he said that the airline was “excited to resume our service with the Dreamliners.” Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing’s commercial unit, represented the Chicago-based manufacturer on the flight and wrote on his blog that the boarding had a “party-like atmosphere.” The U.S. Federal Aviation Administrationgrounded the Dreamliner on Jan. 16, and other global regulators quickly followed suit after the jet’s lithium-ion batteries burned on two 787s operated by ANA and Japan Airlines Co. The grounding kicked off a scramble by Boeing to investigate what had gone wrong. The company developed a new containment enclosure, venting system and other modifications to the battery systems but was unable to identify the cause of the incidents. Investigations by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Japanese Transportation Safety Board remain under way. The FAA approved the new battery-system design on April 19, clearing airlines to begin modifying the 50 Dreamliners that have been delivered since September 2011. Boeing has said that the planes will be fixed in roughly the order that they were delivered.
Finally, the Dreamliner case proves that every company has to be prepared for paying the price of innovation. The 787 is here, waiting to fly again!