Japan gives green light to Dreamliner restarts
Tokyo: Japanese aviation regulators today gave a formal green light to restarting Boeing Dreamliner flights, clearing the way for the troubled aircraft to fly again after a three-month grounding.
The decision came on the heels of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issuing a formal approval for Boeing's 787 fix for batteries at the centre of the crisis.
Japan Airlines (JAL) and domestic rival All Nippon Airways (ANA) account for half the Dreamliners in service, but it could still be at least a month before they can complete the battery fix and get their planes in the air.
"We have reached the conclusion that there is no problem with the FAA's judgement," Japanese transport minister Akihiro Ota told reporters in Tokyo.
"We expect the fullest possible measures to be taken in order to prevent a recurrence of the incident," he added.
The ministry said it would require domestic airlines to undergo stringent testing and monitoring of the troubled planes before returning them to service.
The FAA and other regulators grounded the 50-strong worldwide Dreamliner fleet in mid-January after two failures of the innovative lithium-ion batteries on the jetliner.
The FAA's new airworthiness directive (AD) for the next-generation plane requires the installation of modified battery packs and their respective chargers, as well as battery enclosures and ducts.
"Once the aircraft are in compliance with the AD, they can return to service," an FAA spokesman said in an email.
The directive caps a difficult three months for Boeing and its 787 customers, which have had to cancel thousands of flights and rearrange schedules after the grounding.
The FAA action technically affects just the six 787s of United Airlines, the sole US airline owning the aircraft.
"But we expect foreign civil aviation authorities will order the same action," the FAA spokesman said.
Other airlines flying the Dreamliner include Ethiopian Airlines and Polish carrier LOT.
Following Japanese approval today, ANA said it hoped to make repairs on all its 17 Dreamliners by the end of May, adding that each jet would undergo a test flight while battery monitoring systems will be installed on the planes.
"Only when we are fully satisfied with the safety of our 787 fleet will we return the aircraft to service," ANA chief executive Osamu Shinobe said in a statement.
In the FAA's directive, the air-safety regulator said the battery modifications would minimise the safety risk posed by the overheated batteries in the January incidents.