Japanese airlines ground 787s after latest emergency

Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:36pm EST
 

By Mayumi Negishi and Tim Kelly

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's two leading airlines grounded their fleets of Boeing BA.N 787s on Wednesday after one of the Dreamliner passenger jets made an emergency landing, the latest in a series of incidents to heighten safety concerns over a plane many see as the future of commercial aviation.

Boeing's shares fell 3.3 percent as analysts began to lose some of their conviction in the stock, which had held up relatively well despite the dozen or so issues with the plane over the last six weeks.

All Nippon Airways Co 9202.T said instruments aboard a domestic flight indicated a battery error, triggering emergency warnings. Shigeru Takano, a senior safety official at the Civil Aviation Bureau, said a second warning light indicated smoke.

Wednesday's incident, described by a transport ministry official as "highly serious" - language used in international safety circles as indicating there could have been an accident - is the latest mishap to hit the world's first mainly carbon-composite airliner in recent days.

"I think you're nearing the tipping point where they need to regard this as a serious crisis," said Richard Aboulafia, a senior analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia. "This is going to change people's perception of the aircraft if they don't act quickly."

ANA, which said the battery in the forward cargo hold was the same lithium-ion type as one involved in a fire on another Dreamliner at a U.S. airport last week, grounded all 17 of its 787s, and Japan Airlines Co (9201.T: Quote) suspended its 787 flights scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

The two airlines, which operate about half of the 50 Dreamliners delivered to date, said they would decide on Thursday whether to resume Dreamliner flights the following day.

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Passengers walk away from All Nippon Airways' (ANA) Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane which made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, as seen in this photo taken by a passenger and distributed by Japan's Kyodo January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo