* Test flights to check safety, train pilots
* ANA to carry passengers on scheduled 787 flights in
By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, April 20 All Nippon Airways
(ANA), the biggest customer for Boeing Co's grounded 787
Dreamliner, plans about 100 to 200 round trip test flights in
May of its repaired aircraft before carrying passengers again
from June, sources said.
U.S. regulators approved on Friday a revamped battery system
for the Dreamliner, a crucial step in returning the high-tech
jet to service after it was grounded in January because its
lithium-ion batteries overheated.
Boeing engineers will start to refit each of the 50 jets
owned by airlines around the world with the battery system and
regulators are expected to lift the ban on passenger flights as
early as next week, for the jets that have been fixed.
But ANA will conduct about 100 to 200 round trip test
flights in May, before it starts carrying passengers again on
scheduled flights in June, sources knowledgeable about ANA's
operations told Reuters.
They declined to be identified as they are not authorised to
speak to the media about the matter.
The test flights are aimed at checking the safety of the
aircraft, as well as having about 200 of ANA's Dreamliner pilots
get accustomed to flying it again after more than a three-month
break, one of the sources said.
For some pilots, the test flights will allow them to renew
their qualifications that have expired while the jet was
grounded, the source said.
ANA plans to conduct the test flights between Tokyo's Haneda
airport, or nearby Narita airport, and Chitose in northern
Japan, the sources said.
ANA said final details had yet to be set.
"We haven't come up with a schedule yet," said ANA spokesman
Ryosei Nomura, adding that ANA employs 180 pilots to fly the
One source said that before carrying passengers, ANA could
use the repaired Dreamliners for cargo flights.
ANA has not said how much the 787's grounding has cost it to
date, though it has said it lost $868,300 in revenue per plane
in the last two weeks of January.
Friday's approval by the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA), the U.S. regulator, all but ends a grounding that has
cost Boeing an estimated $600 million. Nearly half of the planes
in service are owned by ANA and rival Japan Airlines.
Boeing has 10 teams already in place worldwide and it takes
them five days to refit each jet with the new battery system,
including a "containment and venting" system, the company said.
The FAA said it would issue an airworthiness directive next
week that formally lifts the U.S. ban on passenger flights. Its
Japanese counterpart, the Civil Aviation Bureau, said its
revised directive could come on or after April 25.