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Boeing conducts Dreamliner flight to test battery 

by NBC News staff and wire reports /  / Updated 

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Boeing said Friday it had conducted a test flight of the Dreamliner 787 to evaluate a new battery system, which is aimed at overcoming the problems that led to the fleet's grounding in January.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Boeing said the nearly two-hour flight was uneventful and was completed at 12:28 p.m. Pacific time. The airplane took off and landed at Paine Field, near the company's manufacturing operation in Everett, Wash.

Eleven people were on board the plane, including two representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The test flight was meant to gather information the airplane makerhopes will convince the Federal Aviation Administration that the new batteries will not overheat or catch fire. Boeing said the next step was to gather and analyze data, which it would then deliver to the FAA in coming days.

Earlier, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he thought Boeing has a "good plan" to fix the battery problem, but added that he wants to ensure the Dreamliner is safe before allowing the planes back in the air, and no decision had been made on commercial flights.

"They're doing the tests now, and we've agreed with the tests that they're doing. And when they complete the tests, they'll give us the information and we'll make a decision," LaHood said at the U.S. Export-Import Bank's annual conference in Washington.

The certification flight is part of a series of tests to show whether measures Boeing has devised to fix the battery problems work as intended. A preparation flight on March 25 "went according to plan," Boeing said.

It's still unknown what caused the batteries to overheat, and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. But Boeing came up with measures it says make the battery safe. It put more insulation in the battery, encased the battery in a steel box, changed the circuitry of the battery charger and added a titanium venting tube to expel heat and fumes outside the plane.

Once Boeing completes its testing, the FAA and other global regulators will review the test data and decide whether to certify the fix and return the plane to service.

Airlines have been barred from using the plane since it was grounded in January, and Boeing has been barred from delivering 787s, though it continues to build the plane. The delay has been costing the company an estimated $50 million a week.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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