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Ethiopian Airlines becomes first to resume Boeing Dreamliner flights

An Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner jet took off on a commercial flight Saturday, becoming the first carrier to resume flying the Boeing 787 aircraft that were grounded world-wide three months ago due to battery problems.

An Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner jet took off on a commercial flight Saturday, becoming the first carrier to resume flying the Boeing 787 aircraft that were grounded world-wide three months ago due to battery problems.

The flight took off from Addis Ababa and headed to Nairobi.

The US Federal Aviation Authority on Thursday issued formal approval of Boeing's 787 battery fix, clearing the way for the troubled aircraft to fly again after the prolonged grounding.

The directive from the FAA to ground the 50 Dreamliners in operation world-wide came after a series of safety scares with the aircraft, including an emergency landing by Japan's All Nippon Airways in January following a battery malfunction.

Ethiopian Airlines has four Dreamliners, which airline chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said would all resume service in the coming weeks after being retrofitted with new batteries.

"This is the first airplane which has completed the work," Mr Tewolde said, adding that work has started on the company's other three 787s.

Each of the aircraft are set to receive a new battery, which is encased, allowing the plane to continue flying in the event of a malfunction.

"We've fixed the battery, we've now contained the battery, so for some chance that there is a failure with the battery, it's contained, it's isolated, the airplane will be able to continue flying," Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing for commercial airplanes, said.

The three-month grounding of the 50-strong fleet hasn't translated to major financial losses for Boeing. On Wednesday Boeing reported a 20 per cent year-on-year jump in first-quarter profit.

The 787 will head back to Addis Ababa some 1160 km, or 720 miles, from the Kenyan capital later Saturday, airline officials said.

Ethiopian Airlines is the first African carrier to operate the Dreamliner.

In addition to the four Dreamliners which were in operation before January, Ethiopian Airlines has six more on order from Boeing. The full fleet is expected to arrive by the end of 2014, including one that will be delivered in June.

* AFP

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