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United Airlines is flying a 787 Dreamliner for the first time in four months.

One of six Dreamliners operated by the world’s largest airline company was scheduled to take flight around 11 a.m. for a trip from Houston to Chicago. The plane was grounded in January due to concerns about the plane’s batteries overheating.

dreamlinerThe batteries, which have now been modified to prevent them from getting too hot, are a major factor in the plane’s energy effieciency. Boeing says the 787s are about 20 more fuel efficient than airplanes of comparable size.

United will keep the 787s over land for the first several days it’s back in flight, sticking to domestic routes. But the plane is meant for longer distances overseas, where its fuel efficiency is most notable. The Chicago-based airline expects to fly its first international route with a Dreamliner again on June 10 with a flight between Denver and Tokyo.

United Continental Holdings Inc. was the first U.S. airline company to get a Dreamliner. It now has six of them; four have been repaired with modified battery systems and are ready for service.


japan airlinesSAN DIEGO — Japan Airlines announced Tuesday it plans to resume Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights between Tokyo and San Diego beginning June 1.

San Diego’s first nonstop service to Asia was hailed when it started in December as a boon for the regional economy. The 787s were grounded in January because of battery problems.

The carrier resumed the route three times weekly with a larger but less efficient Boeing 777.    Regulators and airlines recently approved fixes for the Dreamliner, and Ethiopian Airlines successfully put the twin-jet back into operation last weekend.

The San Diego-Tokyo run will be daily when it resumes, “after completely confirming the safety and reliability of the aircraft, including the proper installation of the improvements,” Japan Airlines said in its announcement.

The carrier said it will restart flights from routes to Boston and Helsinki, Finland, that same day.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday approved a proposed remedy for problems that triggered battery fires and led to the grounding of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

The agency said it had signed off on a plan by the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer to redesign the wide body’s lithium-ion battery system.

“The certification plan is the first step in the process to evaluate the 787’s return to flight and requires Boeing to conduct extensive testing and analysis to demonstrate compliance with the applicable safety regulations and special conditions,” the FAA said in a statement.

Boeing’s newest and most advanced commercial jetliner was ground in January by regulators worldwide after two battery-related fires damaged 787s in Boston and in Japan. No passengers or crew were hurt in either incident.

There are only 50 787s flying worldwide, but Boeing has orders for several hundred and fixing the problem was a top priority.

Washington (CNN) – After three weeks on the ground, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner soon will return to the skies — but only so engineers can test the plane’s troubled electrical and battery systems, the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday.

FAA Grounds Boeing DreamlinersThe FAA approved test flights for the Boeing planes with strict conditions to assure safety: Only essential personnel will be on board, crews must continuously monitor the plane for battery-related problems and tests will be conducted over unpopulated areas.

“These flights will be an important part of our efforts to ensure the safety of passengers and return these aircraft to service,” the agency said.

Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said in a statement that the company is “confident” the tests could be conducted safely, and said one Boeing aircraft has been designated for the test. Flights are planned in the U.S. Northwest.

Although there are only 50 Dreamliners in service worldwide, the stakes are high for the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer. Following a difficult development, Boeing has several hundred 787s on order at roughly $200 million apiece.

The Dreamliner is the first commercial aircraft to have extensive use of novel lithium-ion batteries, which can hold more electrical power in a smaller, lighter space.

The FAA announcement comes on the same day the National Transportation Safety Board told reporters it had identified the exact battery cell that first short-circuited on a plane in Boston in early January, but still had not determined the root cause of the electrical short.

It listed among the possibilities a manufacturing flaw, a design defect or problems with external systems that charge and discharge the battery.

The safety board also said it is placing under the microscope Boeing’s testing program, which led to the certification of the lithium-ion batteries for the plane.

Those tests apparently led the airplane builder to greatly underestimate the chances of battery failure, the safety board said.

Boeing had estimated a “smoke” event would occur “less than once in 10 million flight hours” with the batteries, Deborah Hersman, the safety board’s chairman, said.

But two batteries failed after fewer than 100,000 hours of actual flight, one leading to a fire aboard the 787 on the ground in Boston.

Further, Boeing’s indications that heat damage in one battery cell would not harm adjacent cells proved false, Hersman said.

“The assumptions used to certify the battery must be reconsidered,” Hersman said.

Hersman’s statements cast doubt on the safety of the battery technology and the FAA’s certification process for approving technology.

It also appeared to dispel any hopes for a quick resolution to the problem, which has led to the grounding of the Dreamliner fleet globally since Jan. 16.

The safety board plans to release an interim report of its findings within 30 days.

The FAA — the ultimate arbiter of when the plane can resume flying — has declined to predict when the 787 will return to commercial service.

Speaking about the January 7 fire in Boston, Hersman said the plane’s flight data recorder showed the battery underwent an unexplained drop in voltage from 32 volts to 28 immediately before the incident, as the plane was being serviced on the tarmac. The voltage drop was consistent with the charge of a single cell on the eight-cell battery, she said.

Hersman said investigators believe the problem originated in cell six, which shows multiple signs of a short circuit — an unintended path of electricity. The short circuit resulted in a thermal runaway — a chemical chain reaction — in cell six, which spread to adjacent cells.

“Charred battery components indicated that the temperature inside the battery case exceeded 500 degrees,” Hersman said.

But investigators still don’t know what caused cell six to short-circuit in the first place.

They have ruled out two possibilities — mechanical “impact” damage, like that caused by being dropped, or short-circuiting outside the battery.

But several other possibilities are being explored, including contamination or defect during manufacturing, flaws in the design or construction of the battery, and problems with battery charging. That final possibility — battery charging — leaves open the possibility that the problem could reside outside the battery itself.

When the FAA approved the use of the lithium-ion batteries on the Dreamliner, it imposed nine “special conditions” that were designed to prevent or mitigate problems.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta reiterated that they are determined to fix the problem.

“Based on what information our experts find, the FAA will take any action necessary to further ensure safety. We must finish this work before reaching conclusions about what changes or improvements the FAA should make going forward,” the statement read.

“The FAA is focused on the review and activities to understand the root cause. Once the review is complete, the FAA will make any analysis and conclusions public.”

Boeing said it has hundreds of experts focused on solving the battery situation. “We are working this issue tirelessly in cooperation with our customers and the appropriate regulatory and investigative authorities.”

dreamlinerSAN DIEGO — Japan Airlines is studying whether to resume flights between San Diego and Tokyo using a Boeing 777, in the wake of failures that have plagued the new Boeing 787 aircraft.

The airline launched San Diego’s long-awaited nonstop connection to Asia on Dec. 2. But the new “Dreamliners” were grounded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, aviation authorities in Japan and airlines following an emergency landing in western Japan last week. It was the latest of a series of mechanical problems with the passenger jet, which included two lithium-ion batteries catching fire and a fuel leak.

Carol Anderson of Japan Airlines told City News Service that the flights between Lindbergh Field and Narita Airport in Tokyo will remain shut down through Monday.

“JAL considers the 777 to be the most suitable replacement for this route at this time,” Anderson said. “We hope to resume Narita-San Diego service as soon as it becomes possible for us to operate the 777 on this route.”

She said feasibility issues include flight and airport operations, and maintenance. British Airways uses a 777 in its London nonstop flight from San Diego.

Anderson said the airline is working to accommodate passengers impacted by the canceled flights and apologized for the inconvenience.

San Diego leaders trumpeted the potential for economic gains with the nonstop service to Japan, which was made possible by efficiencies built into the Dreamliner. The older 777 is larger, heavier and carries more passengers.

In a statement issued Monday, the airline said it would “assess the situation with the ongoing investigations” in deciding how to proceed with its Dreamliner fleet and indicated a decision would come Jan. 29 or shortly thereafter.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was quoted last week as saying the 787 would not fly again until he was “1,000 percent sure” of its safety.

SAN DIEGO – All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, the world’s largest users of Boeing 787 jets, grounded their entire fleet of Dreamliners in the biggest blow yet to the troubled passenger jet’s image.

One flight was supposed to leave from Lindbergh Field Wednesday.



SAN DIEGO — U.S. regulators have ordered airlines to ground all Boeing 787s until they can fix a fire risk linked to batteries aboard the jetliners.

The FAA order came after Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways grounded their 787 fleets.

ALA grounded all 17 of its 787s after one made an emergency landing in western Japan due to an electrical fire that sent smoke into the cabin. Japan Airlines followed suit Wednesday. One of its 787s had an electrical fire in Boston Jan. 7.

Boeing’s newest airliner also has had problems with fuel leaks.

Japan Airlines uses the fuel-efficient Dreamliner to fly between Lindbergh Field and Narita Airport. Carol Anderson of Japan Airlines told City News Service the San Diego-to- Tokyo flight was canceled through Friday.

“Operations beyond that date will be decided after further assessment,” Anderson said. The next flights are scheduled for Sunday and Monday.

About 50 Dreamliners are in service worldwide. Together, ANA and Japan Airlines have the biggest bloc.