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Japan Dreamliner test flight takes off

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A Dreamliner test flight with top Boeing and All Nippon Airways' executives aboard took off from a Tokyo airport Sunday, the carrier said, three months after the worldwide fleet of 787s was grounded.

ANA chairman Shinichiro Ito and Boeing chief executive Ray Conner were aboard the flight which departed around 9:00 am local time (0000 GMT), as Boeing seeks to reassure passengers that the troubled planes are safe.

The test flight was to travel towards southern Japan before returning to the Japanese capital around 11:00 am, an ANA spokeswoman said.

All Nippon Airways has the world's largest fleet of the next-generation planes and the presence of both executives underscores their desire to put the damaging crisis behind them.

The US Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators grounded the worldwide Dreamliner fleet in mid-January after failures of the lithium-ion batteries on the jetliner caused a fire on board one parked plane in Boston and forced the emergency landing of an ANA-operated aircraft in Japan.

Following months of investigations, the FAA on Thursday issued formal approval of Boeing's battery fix, with Ethiopian Airlines on Saturday becoming the first carrier to resume using the aircraft in a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.

Speaking in Tokyo on Saturday, Mike Sinnett, Boeing's chief project manager for the Dreamliner programme, said the Japanese test flight showed the faith that the US aircraft manufacturer placed in the battery fix.

"What it represents is... the depth of confidence that Ray Conner has in the series of design solutions we have brought forward," Sinnett told reporters.

ANA and domestic rival Japan Airlines (JAL) account for around half the 50 Dreamliners in service worldwide, but it could still be at least a month before they can complete all the battery fixes and get their planes in the air.

Although the exact cause of the battery failures had yet to be pinpointed -- as noted by the FAA on Thursday -- Sinnett insisted that the refitted planes were safe to fly.

"Even if we missed the root cause, we have identified 80 potential causal factors and we have addressed all of them in the design," he said.

The battery solution eliminated the potential for fire and heat to get into the airplane, he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130427/japan-dreamliner-test-flight-takes