United Airlines resumes Boeing 787 flights

United Airlines is getting its 787s back in the air, beginning Monday with Flight 1 from Houston to Chicago.

The planes are flying again after being grounded for four months because of smoldering batteries on 787s owned by other airlines. The incidents included an emergency landing of one plane, and a fire on another. Federal authorities lifted the grounding order on April 19 but it has taken Boeing, which makes the plane, and the airlines a few more weeks to fix most of them.

The incidents 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 worldwide when the model was grounded.

United is the only U.S. airline currently flying the 787. The grounding forced it to delay planned international flights and reduced first-quarter earnings by $11 million. Other airlines, including Japan Airlines and South America’s LATAM Airlines Group, also said profit took a hit. LATAM said it still had to make payments on the plane and pay for crews and maintenance. It expects to resume flying soon.

United’s first 787 flight departed Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston at 9:14 a.m. Pacific time and arrived at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago at 11:13 a.m.

Passengers didn’t appear to be too worried. “We saw strong demand for the flight from the first weekend it opened for sale,” said United spokeswoman Christen David.

Ethiopian Airlines resumed flying 787s on April 27, and Air India and Qatar have also restarted flights. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have both said they expect to restart 787 flights on June 1.

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,” David said.

United Continental Holdings Inc. now has six 787s. United expected to have four fixed by Monday, with the other two getting batteries modified in coming days.

The 787 uses more electricity than any other jet. And it makes more use of lithium-ion batteries than other jets to provide power for things like flight controls and a backup generator when its engines are shut down. Each 787 has two of the batteries.

Boeing Co. never did figure out the root cause of the battery incidents. Instead, it redesigned the battery and its charger. The idea was to eliminate all of the possible causes, 787 chief engineer Mike Sinnett said in an online chat on Thursday where he and a Boeing test pilot took questions about the plane.

The changes include more heat insulation between each cell and charging the battery to a lower maximum voltage.

Boeing said that as of Sunday, 45 planes had gotten the battery fix out of 50 that were in service when they were grounded. It said it will finish the modifications by the end of May.

Boeing never stopped making 787s, but deliveries were halted. They resumed last week, and Boeing has since delivered two planes, both with the new battery system.

More in Herald Business Journal

Tulalips break ground on new Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel

A 150-room hotel was added to what is now a $140 million complex expected to open in spring 2019.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, today’s female Boeing engineers break the silence about an embarrassing past.

Teddy, an English bulldog, models Zentek Clothing’s heat regulating dog jacket. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Trudeau snubs Boeing, unveils plan to buy used Aussie jets

Trudeau will be assessing the impact fighter jet contracts have on his country’s economy.

Boeing raises dividend 20%, continues stock buyback program

The manufacturer said it has repurchased $9.2 billion worth of its shares this year.

Everett engineers learn lessons from Mexico City catastrophe

Structural scientists went to help after the September earthquake there and studied the damage.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

Hospital companies merge as insurers encroach on their turf

An anticipated deal between Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension is only the latest.

DaVita to sell off medical groups including The Everett Clinic

Another round of health care consolidation means The Everett Clinic could soon get new ownership.

Most Read