US Grounds Fuel-Efficient Boeing Dreamliner

by | Jan 17, 2013

Battery-related fire risk has grounded Boeing’s fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner planes in a number of countries, with governments in the US, Japan, India and Europe all prohibiting flights using the aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday issued an order to US airlines to stop flying the lightweight passenger jets until they can prove the onboard lithium-ion batteries are safe, following an emergency landing on an All Nippon Airways plane in Japan the same day. Warning lights indicated a battery problem, Reuters reports, and a Dreamliner on the ground in Boston experienced a similar mishap earlier in the month, CNN reports.

The FAA said the cause of the battery failures is under investigation, and if not fixed could lead to a fire in the electrical compartment.

It is not the first malfunction on a Dreamliner. In late July 2012, an engine failure occurred on a 787 during a taxi test in Charleston, S.C.

Earlier today, Japan Airlines Co cancelled eight Dreamliner flights between Tokyo and San Diego until Jan. 25, affecting 1,290 passengers. All Nippon Airways says the grounding will cost it more than $1.1 million a day, Reuters reports.

In addition to the government actions, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Chile’s LAN Airlines have all grounded the planes, according to media reports. Reuters reports that Poland’s state-controlled LOT Airlines, which has two Dreamliners and is awaiting the delivery of three additional planes, will seek compensation from Boeing.

United Airlines is the only US airline operating the 787, with six in service. The company told USA Today it will assign passengers to other aircraft.

According to CNN, Boeing has delivered 50 Dreamliners worldwide and has more than 800 additional orders for the passenger jets.

The Dreamliner is designed to use 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized planes, and when it debuted in 2011 Boeing said the aircraft’s GE and Rolls Royce-designed engines represent “nearly a two-generation jump” in technology for this sector of the airplane market. Composite materials make up 50 percent of the primary structure of the 787, including the fuselage and wing.

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