The FAA has approved flight testing for Boeing's Dreamliner jet, it announced this afternoon.
In a press release, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta laid out restrictions for the flights, including extensive pre-flight testing and inspections, and in-flight monitoring.
The flights will be over unpopulated areas, in defined airspace.
The directive, the first of its kind in decades, was prompted by a battery malfunction that forced an All Nippon Airways flight to make an emergency landing.
An ongoing review by the National Transportation Safety Board is examining the jet's lithium-ion battery, believed to be the source of a fire in a parked Dreamliner in Boston on January 7.
The FAA will allow now Dreamliner test flights under a Special Airworthiness Certificate, with these requirements:
- Before flight, the crew must perform a number of inspections to verify that the batteries and cables show no signs of damage.
- Pre-flight checklist will include a mandatory check for specific status messages that could indicate possible battery problems.
- While airborne, the crew must continuously monitor the flight computer for battery related status messages, and land immediately if one occurs.
- Before the initial test flight, the crew must inspect the airplane’s smoke barriers and insulation to verify that they meet the approved design.
- Experimental research and development flights are flown with Boeing aircrews that include only personnel essential to the flight.
Boeing was allowed to conduct a 787 "ferry flight" this morning, to move a plane from Texas to Washington. That flight was not for testing purposes, but Boeing said via Twitter it monitored battery status throughout the flight.
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