Boeing's much-feted 787 Dreamliner returned to the skies today for the first time since January, when it was grounded by the FAA. It was the first of two flights designed to test recent changes to the plane's lithium-ion battery, which had previously caused a number of mid-flight fires. The test flight went off without a hitch, taking off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington and flying for two hours, 300 miles down the Pacific coast and back without incident.
It's good news for Boeing, but only the first step in a long and open-ended process of restoring faith in the experimental carbon-skeleton based plane. The technical changes involve improved ventilation and insulation for the batteries, which would help expel flammable electrolytes and insulate the cabin in the event of a malfunction -- but proving the effectiveness of the new system after the 787's high-profile issues may be more difficult. A second test is already scheduled, but the FAA has yet to say when they think the 787 will be ready to return to active duty.