ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, 29 April 2013: Ethiopian Airlines on Saturday became the first carrier to resume flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliners that have been grounded worldwide since January due to battery problems.
The Ethiopian carrier flew one of the next-generation aircraft from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, a day before All Nippon Airlines (ANA), which has the world’s largest fleet of Dreamliners, is set to conduct a test flight in Japan.
“I am very happy to see the airplane is back in the air now and I am very happy also we are the first one,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam told journalists before take off.
The US Federal Aviation Authority on Thursday issued a formal approval of Boeing’s 787 battery fix, clearing the way for the troubled aircraft to fly again after the prolonged grounding.
The directive from the FAA to ground the 50 Dreamliners in operation worldwide came after a series of safety scares with the aircraft, including an emergency landing by ANA in January following a malfunction in a battery that provides auxiliary power.
Ethiopian Airlines has four Dreamliners, which Tewolde said would all resume service in the coming weeks after being retrofitted with new batteries.
“This is the first airplane which has completed the work,” he told reporters, adding that work has already started on the company’s other three 787s.
Each of the aircraft will receive an encased new battery, allowing the plane to continue flying in the event of a battery malfunction.
Even if the battery were to malfunction, “it’s contained, it’s isolated, the airplane will be able to continue flying,” Boeing’s marketing vice-president for commercial airplanes, Randy Tinseth, told AFP at the airport.
Despite the previous safety scares with the aircraft, he said customers have no reason to feel nervous about flying the Dreamliner.
Eight airlines worldwide operate the Dreamliner. Ethiopian Airlines was the first African carrier to acquire the plane.
Apart from the two Japanese carriers and Ethiopian, the other companies that operate the Dreamliner are United Airlines, Qatar Airways, Chile’s LAN, Air India and Polish flag carrier LOT.