U.S. experts arrive in Japan to assist probe of ANA Dreamliner

Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:30pm EST
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By Antoni Slodkowski

TAKAMATSU, Japan (Reuters) - A team of experts from U.S. aviation authorities and Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) arrived in western Japan on Friday to inspect a passenger jet operated by All Nippon Airways Co (9202.T: Quote) that made an emergency landing earlier this week.

The incident prompted regulators in the United States and around the world to ground the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets. Battery-related problems are being investigated after warning lights indicated a battery problem on the ANA flight on Wednesday. All passengers and crew were safely evacuated from the plane.

The lightweight, mainly carbon-composite aircraft has been plagued by mishaps, raising concerns over its use of lithium-ion batteries.

The five representatives from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing are to assist Japanese authorities in the investigation of the ANA 787 Dreamliner, which remains parked on the side of the Takamatsu airport.

"We are joining the JTSB (Japan Transport Safety Board) team today. We are here to support the JTSB," Lorenda Ward from the NTSB told reporters at the Takamatsu airport.

GS Yuasa Corp (6647.T: Quote), the Japanese company that makes the batteries for the Dreamliner, also said it had sent three engineers to Takamatsu in western Japan to help the investigation.

Regulators in Japan said it was unclear when the Dreamliner could be back in the air. Japan is the biggest market so far for the Dreamliner, with ANA and local rival Japan Airlines Co Ltd (9201.T: Quote) operating 24 of the 50 Dreamliners delivered to date.

Keeping the 787s on the ground could cost ANA alone more than $1.1 million a day, Mizuho Securities calculated, noting the Dreamliner was key to the airline's growth strategy.   Continued...

U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) designated investigator Lorenda Ward (C) is surrounded by media upon her arrival at Takamatsu airport, where an All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane made an emergency landing on Wednesday, in Takamatsu, western Japan January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato