Thursday, 17 January 2013

FAA grounds 787 Dreamliners

The FAA grounded Boeing's much-anticipated but beleaguered 787 Dreamliner Wednesday night to address a potential battery fire risk in the planes.

The FAA's action came after an All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounded their 787s after two incidents involving lithium batteries. An ANA plane had to make an emergency landing in Takamatsu Airport in Japan Wednesday after pilots reportedly smelled a smoke-like odor in the cabin and a battery warning light flashed on. A lithium battery is a suspect in a fire last week in a JAL plane parked in Boston.

Both ANA and JAL, which have 17 and 11 of the planes, respectively, grounded their 787s after the ANA incident. Both airlines issued apologies to their customers in announcements about the groundings on their websites.

United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier operating the 787 and has six of the planes. One was in the air Wednesday night when the FAA announced its emergency airworthiness directive.

"This is way beyond just normal teething problems," said Darryl Jenkins, aviation analyst with the Aviation Consulting Group.

Jenkins said that switching out six planes would probably have little impact on United's scheduling but the number of 787s in the ANA and JAL fleets could prove more problematic.

The FAA said that it will work with both Being and affected airlines to develop a plan to allow the 787 to return to the skies "as quickly and safely as possible."

The FAA said that the battery failures resulted in release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage, and smoke, which could cause damage to critical systems and structures. It had already ordered a comprehensive review of the 787's critical systems last Friday.

In addition to reviewing the aircraft's design, manufacture and assembly, the agency also will validate that 787 batteries and the battery system on the aircraft are in compliance with the special condition the agency issued as part of the aircraft's certification. 

FAA grounds 787 Dreamliners

By Kate Rice