US aerospace manufacturer Boeing has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to conduct test flights on their 787 Dreamliners. The jets have been grounded worldwide following battery problems.
"Boeing has submitted an application to conduct 787 test flights and it is currently under evaluation by the FAA," said Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel, with the administration confirming the request Monday.
US and Japanese regulators grounded all Dreamliners in mid-January because of two incidents with the plane's lithium batteries – a battery fire on a Japan Airlines (JAL) 787 at a US airport and the emergency landing of a domestic All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight – and airlines around the world quickly followed suit.
A source with knowledge on the matter told the Seattle Times newspaper that the test flights would gather data on the lithium ion battery system and test a possible fix. But the newspaper added that despite the tests, the airline is still expected to remain grounded for weeks, if not months.
The chairman of the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB), Norihiro Goto, told a news conference Tuesday that the cause of the Dreamliner's battery problems was still unclear.
Goto added that CT scans showed six of the main battery's eight cells on the ANA Dreamliner were badly damaged, charred and deformed.
Boeing hadn't discussed its test flight request with the JTSB yet, said Goto, who added that he did not know if the jetmaker had found clues to the cause of the battery problems, but the test flights "could mean they have made progress."
ANA is the world's biggest Dreamliner operator with 17 of the planes. Last week the company lost around $15 million (5.63 million euros) in revenue as a result of 787's grounding. Domestic rival JAL own seven of the planes, and said the halting of the jets would shave $7.6 million from its operating profit in the year to end-March. Both companies have said they will discuss compensation for the losses with Boeing.
dr/hc (Reuters, AFP)