Steady Progress on 787 Mods as Airlines Plan for Reintroduction

 - May 6, 2013, 11:20 AM
Qatar Airways flew one of its five Boeing 787s on May 1. (Photo: Boeing)

Battery system modifications to the world’s Boeing 787s continued at a steady pace while details of plans for service resumptions gradually began to emerge by the time Qatar Airways flew one of its five airplanes on a route between Doha and Dubai last Wednesday. The Qatar flight, which carried airline CEO Akbar Al Baker, a contingent of Boeing officials and a media delegation, happened five days after Ethiopian Airlines re-introduced one of its 787s into service. Qatar announced it planned to launch regular service with its 787 between Doha and London on May 15.

Boeing declines to comment on which customer might next deploy a 787 on a revenue flight, but so far launch customer All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and LAN Airlines parent LATAM Airlines Group have each specified June 1 as their target for returning their 787s to service.

Boeing has promised to finish modifications on all 17 of ANA’s Dreamliners by “mid or the end of May,” according to the airline. As of last Wednesday it said Boeing, with the help of ANA technicians, retrofitted the new battery systems on three airplanes, but that it doesn’t yet know whether it will wait to complete the entire fleet before starting revenue service. “Our target is to resume 787 service from June 1,” said the spokesperson.

Plans call for each modified airplane in ANA’s fleet to undergo a proving flight, the first of which the airline conducted on April 28 from Tokyo Haneda airport. The airline also said it will install systems on all its 787s to monitor battery performance in accordance with a request from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau. After the batteries operate in service for a “specified” period of time, it will remove each one for inspection to verify the effectiveness of the improvements, it added. The airline has scheduled cockpit crews to undergo “extensive” training involving some 230 flights and simulator time before they return to operating scheduled flights. Finally, ANA has established a dedicated website to inform the public about the progress of the retrofit program and “other safety and certification initiatives.”

Asked when it will start shipping 787s again, Boeing said it maintains a long-standing policy against providing “forward-looking information” on future deliveries, nor would it comment on the progress of modifications to airplanes still parked at its facilities in Everett, Washington.

Similarly, United Airlines–the only Dreamliner operator in the U.S.–declined to confirm reports that it plans to resume service with the first of its six 787s on May 31. “United has technical operations personnel on site to support the Boeing team on the modifications,” said an airline spokesman in a written statement. “We look forward to completing this work and returning our Dreamliners to service…We are disappointed that we haven’t been able to fly our 787s. Boeing has been a great business partner as we work through this difficult time and we don’t comment on our dealings or discussion with Boeing.”



What are these 'proving flights' actually expected to 'prove'?

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