Boeing crisis deepens

Jan 17 2013 08:09
Boeing 787 Dreamliners

Workers assemble Boeing 787 Dreamliners in Washington in 2011. (AFP)

Related Articles

Airbus wins $7bn Philippine order

Qantas cancels $8.5bn Boeing orders

Dreamliner glitches spark concern


Washington - Boeing suffered another huge blow on Wednesday as US regulators ordered airlines to stop flying 787 Dreamliners until a fire risk linked to the plane's lithium batteries is resolved.

Japan's two biggest airlines had already taken almost half the global fleet out of service, but the announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) means 30 of the world's 50 Dreamliners have now been grounded.

"As a result of an in-flight, Boeing 787 battery incident earlier today in Japan, the FAA will issue an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) to address a potential battery fire risk in the 787 and require operators to temporarily cease operations," the FAA said in a statement.

"Before further flight, operators of US-registered, Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration that the batteries are safe," it said.

United Airlines, the world's biggest airline, is currently the only US airline operating the 787, with six airplanes in service.

"United will immediately comply with the Airworthiness Directive and will work closely with the FAA and Boeing on the technical review as we work toward restoring 787 service," the airline said in a statement.

"We will begin reaccommodating customers on alternate aircraft," it added.

The FAA action was prompted by a battery incident during an All Nippon Airways flight that resulted in an emergency landing in Japan on Wednesday, following another incident last week on an ANA 787 on the ground in Boston.

"The root cause of these failures is currently under investigation," the FAA said.

"These conditions, if not corrected, could result in damage to critical systems and structures, and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment."

The FAA said it was also alerting the international aviation community so authorities in other countries could take similar action.

ANA - the world's first carrier to receive the Dreamliner from Boeing after years of delays - said smoke possibly stemming from a faulty battery forced the pilots to land the passenger plane in Takamatsu, southwestern Japan.

The airline said cockpit instruments had detected the smoke inside a forward electrical compartment, and Japanese Transport Minister Akihiro Ota called it a "serious incident that could have led to a serious accident."

One of the 129 passengers on the Tokyo-bound domestic flight was quoted by broadcaster NHK as saying he "smelled something strange" after take-off and feared the plane was going to crash.

Nobody was seriously injured however when the passengers and eight crew members evacuated via emergency chutes.

ANA and its rival Japan Airlines (JAL) - among Boeing's biggest customers for the Dreamliner - said they would ground their entire 787 fleets through Thursday at least, pending safety checks.

ANA has 17 Dreamliners and JAL has seven - almost half the 50 planes currently in operation worldwide. Boeing has orders for nearly 850.

The Dreamliner is considered an aviation milestone with its extensive use of lightweight composite materials and electronics, instead of aluminum and hydraulics, and airlines have embraced the plane as a way to cut fuel costs.

But a week of mishaps leading up to the forced landing in Japan has made for unwelcome headlines for Boeing - which says it has "complete confidence" in the plane and has pledged to work with customers and regulators.

Until now, the rash of problems had not dented investor confidence in the aerospace giant. From the first incident this year, on January 7, until the market closed Tuesday, Boeing's share value had climbed 0.6%.

But on Wednesday, even before the FAA announcement, Boeing shares plunged 3.4% in New York, dragging down the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

"The one thing that must send shudders through Boeing Co. management and its board is that the 787 Dreamliner could be taken out of service because of a series of accidents," said Douglas McIntyre of 24/7WallSt.com.

"Boeing engineers, aircraft experts and several Wall Street analysts have defended problems with the jet as routine for a new airplane. The power of those defenses is now over," he added in a research note.

Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

boeing  |  airlines



Read Fin24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Company Snapshot

We're talking about: STEINHOFF

Steinhoff International, once the darling of fund managers, risks falling out of the JSE top 100.

Money Clinic

Money Clinic
Do you have a question about your finances? We'll get an expert opinion.
Click here...

Voting Booth

If SARB keeps interest rates the same this afternoon, how will this affect your personal finances?

Previous results · Suggest a vote