Japanese airlines to resume 787 flights, after battery repairs complete
A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 plane, foreground, sits on a tarmac with others at Haneda Airport in Tokyo Friday, April 26, 2013. (Kyodo News)
Published Friday, April 26, 2013 6:27AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 26, 2013 10:17PM EDT
TOKYO -- Japan's transport minister said Friday the government will allow Japanese airlines to resume flying grounded Boeing 787s once they complete installation of systems to reduce fire risk in problematic lithium ion batteries.
The ministry gave the official approval Friday evening following a formal safety order from U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
"We have reached a conclusion that there is no problem with the judgment by the FAA," Transport Minister Akihiro Ohta told reporters. "We believe all possible safety measures would be taken to prevent recurrence of similar problems."
The 50 Dreamliner jets in service worldwide were grounded in mid-January after incidents with smouldering batteries occurred aboard two different planes. Japan's All Nippon Airways was the launch customer for the technologically advanced airliner and has 17 of the jets. Japan Airlines has seven.
The groundings have led to hundreds of cancelled flights and big revenue losses.
The FAA posted a safety order online Thursday allowing 787 flights to resume once the batteries are replaced with a revamped system that manufacturer Boeing Co. says sharply reduces the risk of fire.
Japan is requiring ANA and JAL to take additional safety measures, including installation of a system that allows monitoring of battery voltage on the ground and test flights of all 787 aircraft. A first test flight is expected Sunday.
ANA and JAL began installing revamped lithium ion batteries over the past week.
They declined to comment on when their 787 flights might resume. Japanese media projected a resumption of commercial flights around June, because making required safety installations and test flights would take several weeks.