Boeing 787 makes test flight to check battery

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SEATTLE — A Boeing 787 took off Monday on a test flight to see if a redesigned battery system works properly while the plane is in the air.

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A Boeing 787 was sent out in Everett, Wash., on the first test flight since the fleet was grounded because of the danger of a fire with the plane's lithium-ion battery.  JOSHUA TRUJILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JOSHUA TRUJILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Boeing 787 was sent out in Everett, Wash., on the first test flight since the fleet was grounded because of the danger of a fire with the plane's lithium-ion battery.

The test flight is an important step in Boeing’s plan to convince safety regulators to allow airlines to resume using the plane, which the company calls the Dreamliner.

Boeing filed a flight plan shortly before the plane took off from Paine Field near Seattle.

Boeing Co.’s new 787s have been grounded since January, when a lithium-ion battery on one plane caught fire after it landed in Boston and the battery on another began smoking during a flight in Japan, forcing an emergency landing.

Boeing added insulation around battery cells and a steel casing on the outside to prevent fires. Company officials have said that they might never know the cause of the smoldering batteries, but they hope to get the planes back in the air within weeks, not months.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Japanese authorities are investigating the incidents.

The NTSB plans to hold a forum next month in Washington on the use of lithium-ion batteries in transportation. The agency said Monday that the event, set for April 11-12, will focus on design and performance of the batteries and regulation of their manufacturing and use.

Monday’s test flight was expected to last about two hours. Boeing used a 787 that it built for LOT Polish Airlines.

Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said the plane’s crew would test landing gear, electrical and backup systems, and “demonstrate that the new battery system performs as intended during flight conditions.”

Birtel said that once the flight is done, Boeing will analyze data from it and prepare to seek certification.

Boeing declined to provide access to the plane or its facilities before or after the flight.

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