The FAA has granted Boeing permission to begin test flights of its 787 Dreamliner to gather data and help determine the cause of recent lithium ion battery meltdowns.
"The primary purpose of the test flights will be to collect data about the battery and electrical system performance while the aircraft is airborne," said the FAA in a statement.
Neither the FAA nor Boeing would give a timetable for the test flights. Company spokesman Marc Birtel said in an email the flight test activities would begin "soon." Birtel said Boeing's fifth flight test airplane would be used.
"The company has marshaled an extensive team of hundreds of experts and they are working around the clock focused on resolving the 787 battery issue and returning the 787 fleet to full flight status," Birtel said.
The test flights will be subject to a number of restrictions. Crews will be limited to only Boeing personnel "essential to the flight." Crews must conduct extensive pre-flight inspections and continuously monitor the batteries, landing immediately if any warning messages are signaled in the flight computer.