Dreamliner 787 returns to the skies
On a runway in Everett, Wash., 30 minutes outside Seattle, sits one of the saddest sites I've seen in years. As a huge fan of planes, and in particular Boeing jets, it was so sad to see dozens of its brand new Dreamliner 787 planes sitting on the runway, unable to fly.
Their proverbial wings have been clipped by the FAA after a series of batter issues.
I visited the Boeing plant this week as the company prepared for the relaunch of its biggest venture in years. The Dreamliner had been in the works for decades. It featured some of the latest technology to reduce noise, fuel consumption, as well as the personal toll long flights have on our bodies.
At less than $300 million dollars per plane, it was cheaper than its bigger, older sisters, the 747 and 777. It was also popular. Going into 2013, anyone who ordered a Dreamliner at the start of the year couldn't expect delivery until 2020.
But just like that, weeks after launch, the Dreamliner became a nightmare. The plane's new lithium batteries caused fires, for still unknown reasons. By the time the emergency chutes were deployed on a Dreamliner flight at Boston's Logan Airport on Jan. 7, it was clear something would have to be done.
That something was the unprecedented grounding of Dreamliners by the FAA on Jan. 16.
Boeing has spent weeks on a fix. Unable to find out the reason for the fire in the batteries, they've simply replaced them, returning to technology that they know works. The FAA gave the green light for the planes to hit the air once again.
And on Saturday, Ethiopian Airlines became the first airline to fly the 787 again. On board that plane from Addis Ababa was a vice president for Boeing. The company has a lot riding on that flight and subsequent ones. Tens of thousands of people work on the Dreamliner alone.
The company's stock, which took a dive after the grounding, is now at its highest level in years following news the planes will be returning to the skies soon.
I watched as workers continued to build Dreamliners in Everett at a 24/7 pace. Each worker's face filled with pride at what they're building. The parts for this plane comes from all over the world and are assembled by hand in the Everett factory.
You can understand the personal pride and investment they have in the Dreamliner's success. But unlike the 747's and 777's that are produced there and quickly flown out after they're completed, the Dreamliners, for now, sit on a nearby tarmac. There are more than 50 in this holding pattern.
The people at Boeing feel confident they'll all be in the air soon, bringing to an end this small chapter in the history of a proud company and its beautiful new plane.