The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a revolutionary aircraft that had been grounded since January 16 because of issues with its battery system, is close to flying again, said Boeing CEO Jim McNerney on March 27.
The FAA had banned the aircraft from flying after two separates incidents in which its lithium ion batteries overheated and caught fire. The Guardian, a UK newspaper, reports that the Dreamliner has completed a successful two-hour test flight using a new casing design that provides better venting and insulation for the batteries.
The 787 Dreamliner has had a difficult road toward its integration into airline fleets. The aircraft's delivery was delayed by several years, despite high demand from carriers looking to take advantage of its improved fuel economy.
Passenger jets are typically made using an aluminum body with composite material in the wings, but the fuselage of the Dreamliner is made primarily from composite. This makes it a much lighter aircraft, allowing it to use 20 percent less jet fuel than its competitors.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, commercial aircraft are responsible for seven percent of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. While this is less than passenger cars (34 percent), light-duty trucks (28 percent) and medium-to-heavy duty trucks (20 percent), it is still a considerable amount of pollution.
The rising cost of fossil fuels has lead airlines to search for more efficient options in their fleets. In response to the high demand for the 787, French aircraft manufacturer Airbus has developed the A350, another efficient jet that will begin test flights this year.
The rise in fuel costs also affects passengers, as it typically equates with higher airfare. More efficient planes can help improve air quality.