Japan says could agree Dreamliner restart this week

Japan said Tuesday that a final decision on restarting flights using Boeing's grounded 787 Dreamliner would be made as early as this week.

Transport Minister Akihiro Ota said his ministry would issue an order after a two-day hearing by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that ends on Wednesday.

The grounding of the 50 Dreamliners in service came after a battery fire on a parked Japan Airlines (JAL) 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport and an incident in which fumes from a battery forced the emergency landing of an All Nippon Airways-operated plane in Japan in mid-January.

"We will make the final decision on whether to resume the operation (of Dreamliners) after studying the results" of the NTSB hearing, Ota told reporters in Tokyo.

Japan's two biggest airlines, which fly half the Dreamliners in service, have begun replacing the powerpacks on the troubled aircraft after US aviation authorities approved Boeing's battery fix proposal last week.

The decision was a key step toward getting the grounded jetliner back in the air amid fears over problems with its lithium-ion batteries.

However, ANA said the replacement could take as long as two months, with the carrier eyeing a resumption of flights in June. It rival JAL has not given details about any timeline for restarting flights.