Boeing wraps up 787 test flights for now
Boeing Co. conducted a second test flight of its 787 on Monday as it looks for the cause of battery problems that have grounded the planes. It said no more tests are currently planned.
Boeing said Monday’s flight lasted one hour and 29 minutes and was uneventful. Flight-tracking service FlightAware showed that the plane flew from Boeing Field near Seattle, east over Washington State, and back.
Federal officials grounded the 787 on Jan. 16 because of battery problems that caused one fire and forced another plane to make an emergency landing. Boeing won permission from the Federal Aviation Administration last week to conduct test flights under special conditions, including that the planes fly over unpopulated areas.
Boeing said Monday’s flight included two pilots and 11 flight test personnel. The test plane includes special equipment that lets it track the conditions of its two big lithium-ion batteries during the flight. It’s one of Boeing’s fleet of six 787 test planes that were used for flight testing before the plane went into full production.
Boeing said it will be analyzing data from the flight in the days ahead. It said the data is part of the investigations into the battery incidents, so it wouldn’t release any details about what it found either on Monday’s flight or on the earlier one conducted Saturday.
Boeing is continuing to build 787s in North Charleston and Everett, Wash., while the planes are grounded, but it can’t deliver them to airline customers.
Four of the planes are parked outside the Boeing South Carolina assembly plant at Charleston International Airport.
In an annual filing on Monday, Boeing said it is too soon to estimate how much the 787 problems will cost. The financial impact will depend on what the cause turns out to be, how long it takes to find it, and the fix required to get 787s flying commercially again, the company said.
Willie Walsh, the CEO of European airline owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, told Bloomberg News on Sunday that Boeing will need to change the battery system on the 787, and that may take several months.
“There are some changes to the systems that I know they are going to introduce, but I can’t disclose too much of it because I have been given information on a confidential basis,” said Walsh, whose IAG includes British Airways and Iberia. “They will have to do some redesign of the battery system, and I would expect it to take a couple of months, but I don’t have any detailed information to understand when they will address that.”
He also told Bloomberg that IAG remains “committed” to its 787 orders and that he is confident Boeing will “sort out” the root cause if the battery problem.
Shares of Chicago-based Boeing fell 69 cents to $75.87.The Post and Courier contributed to this report.