Polish LOT airline's grounded Boeings 787 may be among first to resume flight, in summer

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s state-owned airline said Friday that its two grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners may be among the first to resume flights, possibly in the summer.

LOT Polish Airlines President Sebastian Mikosz held talks with Boeing representatives over the grounding of their 787s, and the $50,000 daily costs incurred by the carrier.

Following the talks, LOT said in a communique it expected its two 787s to be among the first to fly again, following modifications and a series of tests. LOT said it would expect Boeing to include European air travel security authorities, the European Aviation Safety Agency, to take part in the tests. Boeing has agreed to send engineers to Poland to help service the aircraft.

LOT also said it managed to secure a delay in its payment schedule for the other 787s that are to join its fleet in 2014.

The world’s entire fleet of 787s, 50 in all, has been grounded by U.S. and other aviation authorities since Jan. 16 due to problems with their lithium ion batteries. One aircraft battery caught fire and another smouldered and forced an emergency landing. About half of the fleet belongs to Japanese carriers All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines.

LOT, which is deeply indebted, was Europe’s first airline to have the 787s Dreamliners, hoping they would boost business, but their grounding has only added to the carrier’s financial problems. LOT has said it needs to extend lease on its three Boeings 767 that were to be substituted with the Dreamliners.

Last month, the management announced it would keep the jets grounded through October. One of the planes remains in Warsaw, the other one in Chicago.

Boeing officials said Friday in Japan that they see commercial flights of the grounded 787 jets resuming “within weeks,” even though the cause of battery overheating has not been pinpointed.

The Boeing executives sought to allay fliers’ fears about the 787 by repeatedly stressing their commitment to safety. They said it would take too long to figure out what had specifically caused the problems but that a new design of the battery would ensure 787s are safe.

The 787 is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium ion batteries, which are lighter weight, charge faster and contain more energy than conventional batteries similar in size.

Next week, LOT is to present a rescue plan that is expected to include layoffs and cutting of costs.