TOKYO (AP) — Japan's transport minister said Friday the government is poised to allow Japanese airlines to resume flying grounded Boeing 787s once they complete installation of systems to reduce fire risk in problematic lithium ion batteries.
The approval could come as early as Friday evening following an expected formal safety order from the U.S. federal regulators, Transport Minister Akihiro Ohta said in a statement on the ministry's website.
The 50 Dreamliner jets in service worldwide were grounded in mid-January after incidents with smoldering batteries occurred aboard two different planes.
The groundings have led to hundreds of canceled flights and big revenue losses.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration posted a safety order online Thursday allowing 787 flights to resume once the batteries are replaced with a revamped system that manufacturer Boeing Co. says sharply reduces the risk of fire.
Japan's two biggest airlines began installing revamped lithium ion batteries over the past week. All Nippon Airways owns 17 of the jets and Japan Airlines has seven.
They declined to comment on when their 787 flights might resume.