Boeing 787 ’Dreamliner’ jets grounded in India, homeland US
TOKYO / NEW DELHI – The Associatead Press
REUTERS photoFollowing Japan’s two biggest airlines, the U.S. aviation agency grounded more than half the Boeing 787s in use around the world, and Air India said it grounded its fleet of six after an emergency landing of one of the jets exposed a battery fire risk in the technologically advanced aircraft.
The All Nippon Airways 787 that landed on Jan. 16 had been leaking electrolyte from a main battery located in an electrical room below the cockpit, according to the airline. It said burn marks were found around the battery. The domestic flight landed at Takamatsu airport in western Japan after a cockpit message showed battery problems and a burning smell was detected in the cockpit and cabin.
The 787, known as the Dreamliner, is Boeing’s newest jet, and the company is counting heavily on its success. Since its launch after delays of more than three years, the plane has been plagued by a series of problems including a battery fire and fuel leaks. Japan’s ANA and Japan Airlines are major customers for the jet and among the first to fly it.
Japan’s transport ministry said it received notices from ANA, which operates 17 of the jets, and Japan Airlines, which has seven, that all their 787s would not be flying. The grounding was done voluntarily by the airlines. Kyodo News agency quoted transport ministry investigator Hideyo Kosugi as saying that electrolyte from the ANA plane’s main battery had leaked through the electrical room floor to the exterior of the aircraft.
In Washington, the Federal Aviation Administration was temporarily requiring U.S. carriers to stop flying 787s. United Airlines has six of the jets and is the only U.S. carrier flying the model, but aviation authorities in other countries usually follow the lead of the country where the manufacturer is based.
Boeing said it was working around the clock with investigators.
"We are confident the 787 is safe, and we stand behind its overall integrity," Jim McNerney, company chairman, president and CEO said in a statement.
The 787 relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It’s also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries. The plane is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.
Air India spokesman K. Swaminathan said that India’s aviation authority directed the state airline to stop flying the Boeing planes on Jan. 17 morning as it waits for an investigation by Indian regulatory authorities to take place.
"Air India has temporary ceased operation of its Dreamliners," Swaminathan said.