Japan’s ANA Planning 200 Dreamliner Test Flights

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Japan’s commercial aviation industry bet heavily on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) operate 24 of the 50 Dreamliners parked on the tarmac for the past three months.

ANA, with 17 Dreamliners, was Boeing’s launch customer and is first in line as they begin swapping lithium-ion batteries that erupted in smoke or fire causing the aircraft’s FAA grounding regulation.

According to the manufacturer, and the FAA, the newly designed steel containment box vent system tests all OK and new battery chargers are coming from the Japanese manufacturer.

Boeing engineers, which have begun working on the ANA aircraft at four airports in Japan, say it takes five days to complete the retrofit. The first commercial Dreamliner should be ready to fly by the end of the week.

Along with smoke coming from a 787 jet on the tarmac in Boston, it was an emergency landing in western Japan by an ANA Dreamliner on Jan. 16 that resulted in the ruling from the FAA.

ANA plans to conduct as many of 200 test flights, which will also serve as a refresher for the roughly 200 pilots they’ve already trained on the Dreamliner. They expect the jets to enter regular passenger service in June. JAL also expects to resume service at that time.

Boeing conducted more than 20 types of tests on the grounded 787 jets in the last month. The last test was April 5. But Japan’s Transportation Ministry, which has its own ban in effect, might take more convincing and seek stronger safeguards for the aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet held hearings on the Dreamliner battery fire Jan. 7 on the tarmac in Boston. That happens on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

United Airlines is the only U.S. airline with Dreamliners. They own six and expect a 20 percent reduction in fuel costs from the innovative carbon-composite aircraft. Air India also operates six 787’s.

It’s estimated the problems associated with the Dreamliner has cost Boeing $600 million.

For Japan, this is the biggest aircraft problem in their commercial aviation history, expecting to reach approximately 4,300 flight cancellations between ANA and JAL by the end of May. At the end of March, it had already affected 135,000 passengers.

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