January 14, 2013 / 11:16 AM / 6 years ago

Japan to probe JAL Dreamliner fuel leaks

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s transport ministry has launched an investigation into what caused two fuel leaks on a Boeing Co (BA.N) 787 Dreamliner jet owned by Japan Airlines Co (9201.T), just days after U.S. authorities began a wide-ranging review of the aircraft in the wake of a series of incidents, including a battery fire.

Japan Airlines' (JAL) Boeing 787 plane which leaked fuel during tests, is pictured at New Tokyo international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, in this photo taken by Kyodo on January 13, 2013.REUTERS/Kyodo

Over the weekend, the JAL-operated jet, which was undergoing checks in Japan following a fuel leak at Boston airport in the United States last week, again leaked fuel during tests. Both leaks were due to separate valve-related problems.

“Given the fuel leakage incidents occurred in succession, the minister directed the aviation director of the Regional Civil Aviation Bureau to open an investigation and find the causes of the two leaks as soon as possible,” the ministry said in an e-mailed statement on Monday, adding it was in contact with Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Announcing their review on Friday, U.S. transportation officials, and Boeing, said the aircraft was safe to fly, but they needed to take a comprehensive look at the plane to ensure there were no flaws that should be remedied.

Japan is the biggest market so far for the Dreamliner, with JAL and local rival All Nippon Airways Co (9202.T) flying 24 of the 50 Dreamliners delivered to date.

A series of incidents last week - the fuel leaks, battery fire, wiring problem, brake computer glitch and cracked cockpit window - have focused intense scrutiny on the new plane.

While many of the mishaps are considered routine for a new plane entering service, their occurrence in quick succession on an aircraft boasting major new technology has sparked concerns about its safety.

The 787, the world’s first mainly carbon-composite airliner, is Boeing’s boldest effort to revolutionize commercial aviation by using new technology to cut fuel costs by around a fifth. Each lightweight jet has a list price of $207 million.

Airlines are pleased with the savings, and have so far given the plane their approval, both by ordering more than 800 of the jets and mostly sticking by it through its current troubles.

Reporting by James Topham; Editing by Ryan Woo and Ian Geoghegan

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