EVERETT - A new Boeing 787, known inside the company as Line Number 86, took off from Everett's Paine Field shortly after noon for two hours of flight testing Monday. On board was a newly configured lithium-ion battery and a brand new way to contain and vent smoke from a future battery incident.
The Dreamliner, built for LOT Polish Airlines, is flying a typical flight test profile like any new jet. But Boeing said it will be analyzing data from the flight in preparation for a certification flight in a few days that the company hopes will prove to the FAA that the 787 fleet can return to the sky.
The planes have been grounded since January 16 after a second incident involving one of the plane's lithium-ion batteries, when a battery aboard an All Nippon Airways jet overheated and began smoking in flight. That incident came nine days after a Japan Air Lines 787 smoked and produced small flames minutes after landing in Boston.
The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a forum next month on lithium-ion batteries that will look at the new battery technology in flight. Lithium-ion batteries have caught fire when carried both as cargo and in the hands of passengers on board passenger flights in laptop computers and other consumer electronics.
Boeing said it is using the battery technology for a variety of reasons that support the 787's cutting edge electronic systems. The battery produces much more power, can be recharged quicker, does not develop memory problems and is far lighter than more widely used battery technologies aboard airliners, including nickel-cadmium.