Japan airlines ground 787s
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner problems just went from bad to worse.
Japan's All Nippon Airways, the new jet model's launch customer, has decided to temporarily ground its fleet of 17 planes, according to multiple news outlets.
The decision came early today in Japan after an ANA flight had to make an emergency landing because a cockpit message indicated battery problems. Smoke also reportedly was seen on the jet. Another Japanese airline also canceled all of its 787 flights.
It's the latest major setback for the technologically advanced but notoriously glitchy 787, which has a global supply chain but is assembled in North Charleston and Everett, Wash.
On Friday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced a comprehensive review of the plane program after a week of malfunctions, the most notable of which was a battery-related fire on a Japan Airlines 787 parked in Boston.
The fire last week could have been hot enough to melt the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic that makes up the plane's shell, according to the results of tests the FAA performed last year. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the fire, would not confirm Tuesday whether the box kept the fire from damaging anything but the battery.
The FAA now aims to find out what caused the fire, a fuel leak and other worrisome incidents with Boeing's half-composite, all-electric twin-aisle jet. Nevertheless, the agency agreed with Boeing on Friday that the plane is safe to fly. Several aviation analysts have supported that conclusion, arguing any new plane has “teething” problems and that the FAA review will likely result in minor tweaks to the jet program, not a decertification.
ANA is apparently taking no more chances with whatever might be wrong with its Dreamliners.
Details of the problem with the 787 early today were still being checked, ANA spokesman Takuya Taniguchi said after the flight to Tokyo from Ube landed at the Takamatsu airport.
Several Japanese television stations reported passengers using emergency slides to exit the jet. The airport temporarily closed.
Smoke was observed on the jet in flight this morning, and the pilot had to make an emergency landing about 45 minutes later, according to Japanese media.
ANA's 787s have encountered several problems in the past two weeks, though no injuries have been reported.
Taniguchi said the airline was not yet prepared to comment on the general problems that have surfaced in the 787.
Meanwhile, a Japan Airlines spokesman said it has decided to cancel all five of its scheduled 787 flights today.
“We will decide what to do after today based on what ANA finds out about the cause of the problem with their aircraft,” said Seiji Takaramoto.
Japanese airlines have been the first to roll out the 787.
Boeing has said that various technical problems are to be expected in the early days of any aircraft model.
“Boeing is aware of the diversion of a 787 operated by ANA to Takamatsu in western Japan. We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies,” Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.
The fire Jan. 7 ignited in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787 empty of passengers as the plane sat on the tarmac at Boston's Logan International Airport. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze. Later last week, a fuel leak delayed a flight from Boston to Tokyo of another Japan Airlines 787.
ANA canceled a domestic flight to Tokyo on Jan. 9 after a computer wrongly indicated there was a problem with the 787's brakes. Two days later, the carrier reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft, a minor fuel leak and a cracked windscreen in a 787 cockpit.
ANA said it would comply with instructions from the FAA and other authorities.
Boeing South Carolina
While every 787's aft- and mid-fuselage sections are made or assembled in North Charleston, all of the planes that have experienced trouble this year were assembled in and delivered from Everett, Wash.
The North Charleston factory has delivered only four of the roughly 50 Dreamliners in service, all four to Air India.
The government of India, which owns Air India, is also reviewing the safety its fleet of Dreamliners but has no plans to ground the planes, the country's director general of civil aviation told Reuters today.
Boeing was more than three years late bringing the 787 to market in September 2011 yet still has nearly 800 more on order. Between the North Charleston and Everett factories, it is now making five per month, a production rate it hopes to double by the end of this year.
The Associated Press, MCT and Brendan Kearney of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.