Ethiopian Airlines first to fly 787 Dreamliner since grounding

Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:05am EDT
 
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By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (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 January 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.   Continued...

 
Fekadu Kebede, an Ethiopian Airlines manager, sits inside the cockpit of their 787 Dreamliner after it arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta international airport in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, April 27, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya