Last week, the FAA gave Boeing permission to test-fly its 787 Dreamliner, in hopes of getting closer to identifying the causes of the plane’s recent troubles (see below) and, ultimately, returning the 50 grounded planes to service.
The go-ahead was given on condition that Boeing not operate the Dreamliner over heavily populated areas.
According to Boeing, the flights would “allow Boeing to conduct testing of the in-flight performance of the airplane’s batteries, which will provide data to support the continuing investigations into the cause of the recent 787 battery incidents.”
On February 9 and again two days later, Boeing completed two test flights, using one of six 787 test planes specially fitted with electronic tools to monitor and diagnose battery-related issues.
Both flights were “uneventful.”
Although Boeing has recently referred to “short circuiting observed in the battery,” suggesting that the focus of the investigation has narrowed at least that far, it appears that the root cause of the problem has yet to be identified.
The search continues…
The list of 787-related incidents and regulatory responses now includes the following:
- On January 16, the FAA ordered all U.S. Dreamliners gounded until the safety issued could be sorted out. The move prompted a worldwide grounding.
- On January 15, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines suspended all 787 flights following a battery malfunction that resulted in an emergency landing.
- At least partly in response to the service suspensions by Japanese carriers, Qatar Airways cancelled a scheduled 787 flight from London to Doha.
- On January 13, a fuel leak was discovered on a Japan Airlines 787 at Tokyo’s Narita Airport.
- On January 11, the FAA announced that it would subject the 787 Dreamliner to an unusual post-launch “review.”
- On January 7, a fire broke out on a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston.
- A fire similar to the one in Boston had been reported during the 787′s testing phase in 2010.
- In December, an electrical malfunction forced a United Airlines 787 to make an emergency landing.
- Later that same month, United reported that the same issue had been discovered on a second Dreamliner.
- Also in December, Qatar Airlines grounded one of its 787s because of electrical issues.
- On December 5, the FAA ordered inspections of potential fuel-line leaks on all 787s.
About the 787 Dreamliner
The Dreamliner is Boeing’s most advanced airliner, featuring such cutting-edge technology as lithium-ion batteries and a composite-plastic body.
The first 787 was received by ANA in September 2011, and since then 50 787s have been delivered to eight airline customers, including United.
The company has taken orders for 844 Dreamliners, and Boeing hopes to sell as many as 5,000 during the lifetime of the plane.