Japanese airlines ground Dreamliners after emergency landing

Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:27am EST
 
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By Mayumi Negishi and Tim Kelly

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's two leading airlines grounded their fleets of Boeing 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.

All Nippon Airways Co said instruments aboard a domestic flight indicated a battery error, triggering emergency warnings to the pilots. 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 in a line of mishaps - fuel leaks, a battery fire, wiring problem, brake computer glitch and cracked cockpit window - 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 suspended its 787 flights scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

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

COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW

The 787, which has a list price of $207 million, represents a leap in the way planes are designed and built, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays. Some have suggested Boeing's rush to get planes built after those delays resulted in the recent problems, a charge the company strenuously denies.   Continued...

 
An All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 787 Dreamliner is seen after making an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan January 16, 2013, in this photo taken by Kyodo. The plane made the landing in Takamatsu after smoke appeared in the plane's cockpit, but all 137 passengers and crew members were evacuated safely, Osaka Airport said on Wednesday. Mandatory Credit REUTERS/Kyodo