Ethiopian Air grounds Boeing 787s as precaution

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Associated Press

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 7:03 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 17 at 8:30 AM

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopian Airlines on Thursday grounded its four Boeing 787 Dreamliners following a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to take the planes out of service in the United States because of a risk of fire from its lithium batteries.

The Ethiopian airline said its 787s have not encountered any of the problems experienced by other airlines' Dreamliners, but that it would ground its new Boeings "for precautionary inspection," the company said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The FAA on Wednesday grounded Boeing's newest and most technologically advanced jetliner until the risk of battery fires is resolved. That order applied only to the six Dreamliners operated by United Airlines, the lone U.S. carrier with 787s. But the order placed other airlines and civil aviation authorities under pressure to follow suit.

Earlier this week Ethiopian Airlines announced that it had successfully integrated its four 787 aircraft into its fleet with record-length flights.

Ethiopian Air said it had become the only carrier in the world to reach the design range capabilities of the Dreamliners by flying the aircraft from Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa, a distance of 11,500 kilometers (7,145 miles), Ethiopian Air's longest-ever flight.

Ethiopian is the first African and the third airline in the world to operate the Dreamliner.

The 787 is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium-ion batteries to help power its energy-hungry electrical systems. The batteries charge faster and can be better molded to space-saving shapes compared with other airplane batteries. But the batteries have been prone to catching fire.

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