Japan to let airlines resume Boeing 787 flights

In this Jan. 18, 2013, file photo, an All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" parks on the tarmac at Haneda airport in Tokyo. AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File

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 smoldering 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 canceled 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.



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