United restarts 787 flights after grounding
By Joshua Freed
AP Airlines Writer
United Airlines is again flying the 787, four months after smoldering batteries forced the plane to be grounded worldwide.
A United 787 flight took off from Houston on Monday morning and landed in Chicago.
United Continental Holdings Inc. has six 787s. Battery problems on planes owned by other airlines prompted the grounding. Federal authorities cleared the planes to fly again on April 19.
United plans to use its 787s on routes from Houston to other U.S. cities this week. It plans to restart international flights on June 10.
The Federal Aviation Administration lifted its grounding order last month, and Ethiopian Airlines resumed 787 flights on April 27.
Boeing never found the root cause of the smoldering batteries, but it has said that it believes its fix covers all possible causes.
Monday’s events were good news for Boeing, which is a major state employer, and Evendale-based GE Aviation, which makes jet engines used in some of the 787s.
Still, Boeing and GE last week warned 10 airlines of a possible mechanical problem with Boeing’s model 777–model passenger jets. The warning was issued after two incidents in which engines made by GE shut down.
The incidents with the 787’s smoldering batteries never caused any serious injuries. But the January grounding embarrassed Boeing and disrupted schedules at the eight airlines that were flying the planes. The company had delivered 50 of the planes worldwide.
United is the only U.S. airline currently flying the 787.
United is planning to use 787s on shorter domestic flights before resuming international flights on June 10 with new Denver-to-Tokyo service as well as temporary Houston-to-London flights. It’s adding flights to Tokyo, Shanghai, and Lagos, Nigeria, in August.
Those long international flights are the main reason the 787 exists. Its medium size and fuel efficiency are a good fit for long routes. Starting with shorter domestic flights “will give us a period to ramp up full 787 operations,” United spokeswoman Christen David said.