Boeing team huddles as 787 crisis mounts

  • Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:01 a.m.

SEATTLE — Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Ray Conner abruptly canceled most of a long-planned, day-long strategy meeting Wednesday of his leadership executives and senior operational employees — some 900 people gathered at the Washington State Convention Center, including many top engineers.

Conner held just a short Q&A session with the employees, answering questions about the emergency landing of a 787 Dreamliner in Japan and its implications.

The rest of the day, including presentations to the crowd from out-of-town industry analysts and top airline executive Willie Walsh, chief executive of the holding company that owns British Airways and Spanish airline Iberia, was postponed until an unspecified later date.

Those who had flown in for the meeting left for home early as Conner gathered his team to confront the crisis in the 787 program, which deepened later in an already hectic day as the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the jet.

“Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate ... that the batteries are safe and in compliance,” the FAA said in a statement.

Among domestic carriers, only United Continental owns 787s. It has six of the jets, which Boeing makes at plants in North Charleston and Everett, Wash.

All Nippon Airways confirmed in a statement that its 787 made an emergency landing in Japan Wednesday morning because of an overheated main battery and “an unusual smell in the cockpit as well as in the cabin.”

The battery was found to be blackened after the incident.

The statement said that after the emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport, it was later confirmed “that the main battery in the forward electronic equipment bay was discolored and the electrolysis solution had leaked.”

The plane involved in the incident was Dreamliner No. 9, one of the early and heavily reworked Dreamliners. It was made in Everett.

Boeing delivered the jet a year ago and it entered service 10 days later.

The confirmation of a second battery problem is bad news for Boeing, which insisted about a week ago after a battery fire on a Japan Airlines jet at Logan International Airport in Boston that the new, high-energy lithium ion batteries used on the Dreamliner are safe.

The JAL 787 involved in the Logan incident was a new jet, Dreamliner No. 84, which Boeing had delivered to the airline just three weeks earlier.

That plane also came off the production line in Everett, largely finished and did not need to go to Boeing’s modification center at the south end of Paine Field for rework.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the Logan fire, said Wednesday that it is sending an investigator to Japan to examine the ANA plane.

The Japan Transport Safety Board has also begun an investigation.

The Post and Courier contributed to this report.

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