The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA)’s 787 has been grounded, today, by two of Japan’s biggest airlines owing to safety checks. Japan’s ANA and Japan Airlines Co Ltd (TYO:9201), major customers of the jet, grounded all their planes.
All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. (PINK:ALNPY) said a cockpit message showed battery problems, and a burning smell was detected in the cockpit and the cabin, forcing the flight to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan.
“We are very sorry to have caused passengers and their family members so much concern,” said ANA Senior Executive Vice President Osamu Shinobe.
Both ANA (operating 17 of the jets) and Japan Airlines (operating 7 jets) have sent the notice to Japan’s transport ministry, citing all their 787s would not be flying, and that the grounding was done voluntarily by the airlines.
The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) transport minister, Akihiro Ota, said it’s a serious issue and “these problems must be fully investigated.”
Brendan Sobie, Singapore-based chief analyst at CAPA-Center for Aviation, said the airlines run higher risks when flying a new aircraft, it is usual for a new aircraft to have problems. Since about half the 787 fleet is in Japan, more problems are cropping up there. “There are always teething problems with new aircraft and airlines often are reluctant to be the launch customer of any new airplanes,” Sobie said. “We saw it with other airplane types, like the A380, but the issues with the A380 were different”.
The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) also said some technical problems are always expected in the early days of any aircraft model.According to Boeing spokesman Marc Birte, “Boeing is aware of the diversion of a 787 operated by ANA to Takamatsu in western Japan. We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies”.
Aviation safety expert John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member, said the ANA pilot did the right thing. “They were being very prudent in making the emergency landing even though there’s been no information released so far that indicates any of these issues are related,” he said.
The 787, also known as Dreamliner, is the company’s newest and most technologically advanced jet. The Dreamliner, which got delayed for three years, has been plagued by a series of problems including a battery fire and fuel leaks, since the launch.
Due to other reported problems, the transport ministry has already asked for a separate inspection on another 787 jet, operated by Japan Airlines, that reportedly leaked fuel at Tokyo’s Narita airport after flying back from Boston, where it had also leaked fuel. In another incident on January 7th, a fire started in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787, though it was empty of passengers at Boston’s Logan International Airport, firefighters had to struggle for 40 minutes to completely douse the flames. On January 9th, ANA cancelled a domestic flight to Tokyo, owning to a false indication by a computer system, which showing a problem with the Boeing 787’s brakes. Two new cases were reported two days later by ANA, a minor fuel leak and a cracked windscreen in a 787 cockpit.