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Aviation

Grounded Boeing 787 makes test flight with revised battery

US aerospace giant Boeing has run a test flight of a 787 airliner with a new battery system. The comparatively new "Dreamliner" jets were grounded in January after two planes encountered battery problems.

A Boeing 787 with a modified battery system took to the skies for just over two hours on Monday as the company sought to get its new prestige plane airborne again after it was unexpectedly grounded.

"Today's flight was a normal Boeing production check flight intended to validate that all systems functioned as designed," a company statement said. "The crew reports that the flight went according to plan."

Boeing said that the next step for the 787 and its revised lithium-ion batteries would be a "certification demonstration flight," which "will demonstrate that the new battery system performs as intended during flight conditions." Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said that the date for this flight was not yet decided.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and other regulators grounded the 49 Dreamliners already in service after two separate planes suffered with overheated batteries; a short circuit started a fire on a parked 787 at Boston's Logan Airport and another Dreamliner made an emergency landing in Japan after its battery began emitting smoke.

Boeing says it has made changes to the lithium-ion batteries, including additional insulation around battery cells and a steel casing on the outside designed to prevent fires. The FAA approved Boeing's plans for testing the new batteries on March 12.

Boeing is keen to put the plane it calls the "Dreamliner" back into commercial service as soon as possible; some company officials said this could be achieved as early as May 1.

The US aviation giant is not allowed to continue delivering Dreamliners to customers while the planes are grounded, but manufacture continues. The 787 only entered commercial service in October, 2011.

Monday's test flight was conducted with a jet built for - but not yet delivered to - Polish airline LOT. The plane took off from Paine Field near Seattle, flew out over the Pacific Ocean then south down the western coast before returning to its point of origin 129 minutes later. Six crew members were on board.

msh/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)