SEATTLE — Boeing flew 787 Dreamliner No. 83, complete with its new battery system, on a routine pre-delivery check flight Thursday, signaling that the Federal Aviation Administration will allow the planes to fly with passengers again very soon.
The company still cannot deliver 787s to airlines until the FAA lifts the grounding of the fleet it imposed Jan. 16. But the agency’s permission for pre-delivery flights suggests that go-ahead is imminent.
Boeing also assembles the Dreamliner at its factory in North Charleston.
Every time Boeing delivers an airplane, there are typically two pre-delivery flights to detect any minor issues. One is flown by a Boeing pilot, the next by the airline customer’s pilot.
If any “squawks,” or in-flight faults, show up, extra flights may be scheduled.
Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said Dreamliner No. 83 is destined for All Nippon Airways of Japan and had flown its first pre-delivery flight prior to the grounding.
Three months later, outfitted with new safety-enhanced lithium-ion batteries snug inside steel containment boxes, it flew Thursday to Moses Lake, Wash., and back on its second check flight.
More 787s are likely to take off from Everett, Wash., in the coming days to get these routine checks out of the way, in preparation for the FAA go-ahead on deliveries.
Separately, the FAA also approved Boeing test flights to demonstrate the performance of upgrades to the 787’s GE engines.
Dreamliner No. 5, a test airplane, has been flying every day this week out of San Bernardino, Calif., on those engine test missions.