News / Africa

Ethiopian Airlines First to Fly Dreamliner Since Grounding

Ethiopian Airliner 787 Dreamliner prepare to take off from Addis Ababa, April 27, 2013.
Ethiopian Airliner 787 Dreamliner prepare to take off from Addis Ababa, April 27, 2013.
Reuters
— Ethiopian Airlines on Saturday became the world's first carrier to resume flying Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner passenger jets, landing the first commercial flight since the global fleet was grounded three months ago following incidents of overheating in the batteries providing auxiliary power.

The flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was the first since regulators grounded all Dreamliners on Jan. 16 after two lithium-ion battery meltdowns that occurred on two jets with other airlines within two weeks that month.

U.S. regulators approved a new battery design last week, clearing the way for installation and a resumption of Dreamliner flights by airlines around the world.

The battery faults raised fears of a possible mid-air fire, drawing worldwide attention to Boeing and denting the reputation of its flagship plane.

"I wasn't aware that I was going to be on the 787 Dreamliner until on my way to the airport. It was a good service and the flight was pleasant," said Senait Mekonnen, an Ethiopian restaurateur, moments after the plane landed.

The fully booked flight arrived at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport just after 9.30 GMT, with passengers giving the crew a round of applause upon landing.

The grounding of the Dreamliner fleet has cost Boeing an estimated $600 million, halted deliveries of the aircraft and forced some airlines to lease alternative planes.

The Dreamliner cost an estimated $20 billion to develop and represents a quantum leap forward in design, offering a 20 percent reduction in fuel burn and added cabin comforts such as higher humidity, larger windows and modern styling.

But by sparking fears of a dangerous mid-air fire, the battery problems drew worldwide attention to both aircraft safety and the technology behind lithium-ion batteries, which are widely used in laptops, mobile phones, electric cars and other products.

The scrutiny turned from what are often called normal "teething pains" for a new plane into a serious crisis for Boeing. As the plane goes back into service, what caused the fire is still unknown.

The battery that overheated on a parked Japan Airlines 787 in Boston caught fire and burned for more than hour before firefighters put it out. The plane was on the ground and empty. The second incident, which has not officially been termed a fire, occurred during a flight in Japan.

An odor of smoke in the cabin and warnings in the cockpit prompted the All Nippon Airways pilots to make an emergency landing and evacuate the aircraft. Boeing said both incidents showed its safeguards had worked.

Cause not yet found

After the second incident, airlines were swiftly barred from flying the 250-seat aircraft, which carries a list price of $207 million. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched a full-scale investigation to find the root cause of the Boston fire and examine the process by which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Boeing's design.

The NTSB has not yet found the cause, and after hearings last week the investigation continues.

The last time an airliner fleet was grounded was more than a
 generation ago, when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration banned the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 jet in 1979 after a crash in Chicago killed 273 people.

Boeing spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars redesigning the battery system, drawing on its vast staff of engineers and experts in everything from fighter planes to rockets and satellites.

The changes include a revamped battery less prone to heat build-up, a redesigned charger and a stainless-steel enclosure capable of withstanding an explosion and equipped with a metal exhaust tube to vent fumes and gases outside the jet, if the battery overheats.

International airlines have been slowly putting the Dreamliner back into their schedules. United Airlines, the only U.S. carrier with the jet, said it will begin commercial flights on May 31. All Nippon Airways plans to conduct its first test flight of the revamped 787 on Sunday but has yet to decide when to resume passenger flights.

Ethiopian Airlines previously said its fleet did not suffer any of the technical glitches experienced by other Dreamliner jets, though it withdrew the planes from service to undergo the changes required by the FAA.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid