Ethiopian Airlines first in putting the B787 back into the sky


Ethiopian Airlines yesterday was the first carrier to put the B787 Dreamliner back into the air after the FAA had lifted their grounding order and mandated a so called fix for the aircraft’s troubled Lithium Ion battery systems through an Airworthiness Directive.

As reported here several days ago, Ethiopian, currently operating 4 of these aircraft – out of 50 delivered worldwide – started implementing the required changes on their aircraft at their maintenance base in Addis Ababa with Boeing technicians on site to provide technical support, and was out of the blocks first to put the bird into the air again after receiving approval for the work carried out.

Ethiopian Airlines they operated a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi yesterday following which, according to a source at JKIA, the aircraft’s battery system was thoroughly inspected and found intact, before resuming the return flight to Addis.

One of the Boeing engineers on board the flight reportedly told the media in Nairobi that all potential causes of a future battery fire had been eliminated by the modifications to the battery system.

Senior Ethiopian Airlines management was also on board the flight to demonstrate their confidence in the aircraft’s safety, undoubtedly reassuring for the passengers who could not be blamed for perhaps feeling a slight bit like the proverbial guinea pigs.

It was quite a spectacle to see the attention given to this aircraft after she reached parking position. There was a flurry of activities, not just to disembark passengers and offload the baggage but also then the technicians swooping all over to check the systems on board. Ethiopian was the first airline to get the Dreamliner in Africa and their maintenance center in Addis is a world class facility where many airlines maintain their planes. They were ahead of everyone in modifying their B787’s and gave African aviation another first. I am sure in coming days some of the other airlines will also start operations again after they got the analysis of the technicians monitoring this and the next few flights by ET’s Dreamliners’ added the source by phone from JKIA yesterday.

There is no doubt among aviation observers, that the grounding of the aircraft type in January, following two fires on battery systems, has left many passengers worried and that the return to service of the B787 will require a major PR offensive by airlines and Boeing, to reassure travelers that the modifications now put into place will indeed resolve the core issues with the Lithium Ion batteries in a safe and sustained way.

Boeing meanwhile is getting ready for the delivery of more B787’s to airlines around the world, as the production did continue at the rate of 5 per months while the FAA had kept the 50 already delivered on the ground, and once all the modifications on the battery systems of the brand new aircraft have been certified a wave of handover ceremonies will no doubt take place in Seattle under the spotlight of the global media.

Happy Landings to the Ethiopian Airlines B787’s, their crews and passengers.