(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) A Boeing 787 test plane flew for more than two hours on Saturday to gather information about the problems with the batteries that led to a worldwide grounding of the new jets more than three weeks ago.
The flight was the first since the Federal Aviation Administration gave Boeing permission on Thursday to conduct in-flight tests. Federal investigators and the company are trying to determine what caused one of the new lithium-ion batteries to catch fire and how to fix the problems, reported the New York Times on Sunday. Marc R. Birtel, a Boeing spokesman, said the flight was conducted to monitor the performance of the plane's batteries. He said the crew, which included 13 pilots and test personnel, said the flight was uneventful. All 50 of the 787s delivered so far were grounded after a battery on one of the jets caught fire at a Boston airport on Jan. 7 and another made an emergency landing in Japan with smoke coming from the battery.
The new 787s are the most technically advanced commercial airplanes, and Boeing has a lot riding on their success. Half of the planes' structural parts are made of lightweight carbon composites to save fuel. Boeing also decided to switch from conventional nickel cadmium batteries to the lighter lithium-ion ones.
But they are more volatile, and federal investigators said Thursday that Boeing had underestimated the risks. Battery experts have said it could take weeks for Boeing to fix the problems.