Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s two main airlines, have grounded their Boeing 787 Dreamliners after one was forced to make an emergency landing because of battery problems.
ANA grounded its fleet of 17 Dreamliners when its flight NH 692 from Yamaguchi Ube was forced to land shortly after take-off.
Japan Airlines followed suit, saying it would ground its fleet of seven 787s from January 16 until further notice.
This is the latest setback for Boeing and its problem-hit Dreamliner planes.
In recent weeks, Dreamliners have suffered issues including fuel leaks, a cracked cockpit window, brake problems and an electrical fire.
“You’re nearing the tipping point where they need to regard this as a serious crisis,” said Richard Aboulafia, a senior analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.
“This is going to change people’s perception of the aircraft if they don’t act quickly.”
On Wednesday, ANA’s flight NH 692 left Yamaguchi Ube in western Japan at 08:10 local time and headed for Tokyo’s Haneda airport.
Shortly after take-off, smoke was seen in the cockpit but not in the passenger compartment, and a strange smell was reported.
ANA says that it does not yet know the source of the smoke and is investigating the problem.
However, it added that the battery in the forward cargo hold was the same type as the one involved in a fire on another Dreamliner at a US airport last week.
The ANA flight landed at Takamatsu airport at 08:47 on Wednesday after the pilot saw an error message in the cockpit.
“There was a battery alert in the cockpit and there was an odd smell detected in the cockpit and cabin, and [the pilot] decided to make an emergency landing,” said Osamu Shinobe, an ANA vice president, at a news conference.
Japan Airlines and ANA have grounded their Boeing 787 Dreamliners after one was forced to make an emergency landing because of battery problems
ANA said that the 129 passengers and eight crew were evacuated, with a number of people sustaining minor injuries.
The Reuters news agency reported that five people were injured, while Bloomberg said that one person was sent to hospital. ANA officials were not immediately available to confirm the figures.
Local television footage showed emergency chutes were deployed from the plane. There were also fire trucks on the runway.
Paul Lewis, a spokesman for Boeing, said the planemaker was “aware of the diversion of a 787 operated by ANA to Takamatsu in western Japan”.
He added that Boeing “will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies”.
The concerns have spread beyond Japan, however, not least because the Dreamliner was seen as Boeing’s flagship new aeroplane and had attracted orders from many of the world’s biggest and best-known airlines.
The 787 is said to be one of the most fuel-efficient in the industry, and Boeing delivered 46 Dreamliners to customers in 2012.
Following Wednesday’s landing, India’s aviation regulator said it would review the Dreamliner’s safety and talk to parts makers.
Despite this, the regulator said it had no plans to ground the six Dreamliners that are currently being used by Air India.
Australia’s Qantas Airways said its order for 15 Dreamliners remained on track. Its subsidiary Jetstar is due to take delivery of the first of its aircraft in the second half of this year.
United Airlines is the only US carrier currently flying Dreamliners, and the carrier said it was not taking any immediate action.
Even before Wednesday’s emergency landing, Boeing was facing an inquiry by Japanese and US authorities over its Dreamliner issues.
Last week, the US Federal Aviation Administration started a joint review with Boeing of the design, manufacturing and assembly of the Dreamliner.
On Tuesday, Japanese authorities said they would conduct an inquiry after two successive fuel leaks on a different 787 operated by Japan Airlines.
On January, Japan Airlines reported that a fire broke out on a 787 shortly after it landed in Boston. There have also been reports of brake issues.
“It is not abnormal for new aircraft to have some teething problems,” said Chris de Lavigne of Frost and Sullivan in Singapore.
“There were initial issues with the Airbus A380 as well. Look where it is today; it is flying successfully and everyone seems to be happy with it.”
However, he added that a lot would depend on the outcome of the two investigations.
“If it turns out to be a major issue and requires re-engineering to be done, then you may need to ground some of the planes or even the entire fleet.”
US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered a review of the 787 Dreamliner plane after a series of incidents put a question mark over the safety of Boeing’s flagship plane.
The review by the FAA will look at the design and manufacture of the planes.
It is not clear whether the planes in the air at the moment will be grounded.
An electrical fire, a brake problem, a fuel spill and cracks in the cockpit’s windshield have affected Dreamliner flights in the past week.
“We are absolutely confident in the reliability and performance of the 787,” Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.
“We are working with the FAA and our customers to ensure we thoroughly understand any introductory issues that arise.
“While we take each issue seriously, nothing we’ve seen in service causes us to doubt the capabilities of the airplane.”
FAA has ordered a review of the 787 Dreamliner plane after a series of incidents put a question mark over the safety of Boeing’s flagship plane
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is one of the most advanced aero planes ever created. Much of it is made from very strong, light carbon-fibre composite material.
However, a spate of technical issues has hurt its image. On Friday, two new problems were found, adding to Boeing’s woes.
On Friday, All Nippon Airways reported a crack in the window on the pilot’s side of the cockpit. It caused no problems for the 237 passengers and nine crew on a flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to Matsuyama, but the return flight was cancelled
The same airline said another Dreamliner flight, shuttling between Haneda and the southern Miyazaki prefecture, experienced a delay due to an oil leak from a generator inside an engine
On Wednesday, ANA cancelled a 787 flight from Yamaguchi to Tokyo because of a brake problem
On Tuesday, Japan Airlines cancelled a Boston to Tokyo flight after about 40 gallons (151 litres) of fuel spilled
An electrical fire broke out on board a Japan Airlines Dreamliner on Monday shortly after it landed in Boston, following a flight from Tokyo
Last year, a United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing because of an electrical problem
In December, Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787 Dreamliners after several manufacturing faults caused electrical problems similar to those that affected the United plane.
Last month, the head of Qatar Airways criticized Boeing over several manufacturing faults that have resulted in the grounding of one of its three 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
Boeing has delivered 50 of the 787s, starting in late 2011, and has orders for nearly 800 more. To get through the backlog, Boeing is increasing production to build 10 of the planes per month by the end of the year.
By comparison, it builds more than one 737, Boeing’s best seller, every day.
Japan Airlines said that a fire broke out in one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, shortly after it landed in Boston, following a flight from Tokyo.
The fire started after a battery in the jet’s auxiliary power system overheated.
Japan Airlines said that no passengers or crew members were hurt as they had already disembarked.
This is the latest setback for the Dreamliner, after production delays and several technical problems.
“Smoke was initially discovered by maintenance staff in the rear end of the cabin, and confirmed by another maintenance staff who also detected smoke outside the aircraft,” Carol Anderson a spokeswoman for Japan Airlines said.
Meanwhile, Doug Alder, a spokesman for Boeing was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that the plane maker was “aware of the situation” and that it was “working with the airline to understand more about it right now.”
Japan Airlines said that a fire broke out in one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, shortly after it landed in Boston, following a flight from Tokyo
The Dreamliner is one of the most advanced planes ever built. However, a spate of technical issues has hurt its image.
Last year, a United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing due to an electrical problem.
In December, Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787 Dreamliners after several manufacturing faults caused electric problems similar to those that affected the United plane.
To add to Boeing’s woes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in December that it had identified errors in the assembly of fuel line couplings, in the Dreamliner.
It warned that these errors could result in fuel leaking on to hot engine parts and start a fire, cause engine failure, or simply see the plane run out of fuel.
Analysts said the latest incident on the Japan Airlines flight was a major blow to Boeing.
“I don’t want to be an alarmist, but onboard fires on airplanes are as bad as it gets,” said Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets in Virginia.
“Even though it happened on the ground, rest assured the FAA is asking <<What if it happened in the air?>>”
Boeing 787 Dreamliner has a range of 10,000 miles, is far quieter than ordinary jets, and is constructed using a “moulding” process that has eliminated 1,500 aluminum sheets and 50,000 fasteners.
The much-delayed Boeing 787 Dreamliner is also three years late and has cost a reported $32 billion.
Aluminium has been the standard material used in aircraft for more than a century – even the Wright brothers’ famous first flight in 1903 used an aircraft made partially from the metal.
Now the “aluminium age” could be about to end – with the delivery of the first large-scale commercial aircraft made using 50% “composite materials” including plastics and carbon fibre.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner has a range of 10,000 miles, is far quieter than ordinary jets, and is constructed using a “moulding” process that has eliminated 1,500 aluminum sheets and 50,000 fasteners
Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner programme, said:
“It took a lot of hard work to get to this day.”
Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been much delayed – its maiden flight was delayed for more than two years – and will cost up to $200 million. The delays are reported to have cost maker Boeing more than $32 billion.
The new aircraft offers hi-tech entertainment with Android touchscreens built into every seat – even in Economy. The “composite” design – using mixed materials such as titanium and carbon fibre – is believed to have been a spur for rival Airbus to incorporate carbon fibre in future aircraft.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner seats 250-290 and offers increased comfort - the air inside is less dry than comparable jets, and First Class passengers will enjoy entertainment on 17-inch touchscreens
Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a blue and white-painted long-range aircraft, which boasts a graceful new design with raked wingtips and will leave for Japan on Tuesday and enter service domestically on October 26.
Boeing has taken orders for 821 Dreamliners, which will compete with the future Airbus A350, due in 2013.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) is the first airline to take delivery of Boeing 787 Dreamliner - the first large-scale commercial jetliner to be built from composite materials, not aluminium
“It is simpler than today’s aeroplanes and offers increased functionality and efficiency,” says Boeing’s official description of the plane.
“The team has incorporated airplane health-monitoring systems that allow the airplane to self-monitor and report systems maintenance requirements to ground-based computer systems by itself.”
“You can tell the Dreamliner is special the moment you see it coming in to land,” says Jonathan Margolis, a technology specialist who saw one of its first test flights.
“The near silence is almost spooky. But the thing which struck me most when I saw it at the Farnborough Air Show was the obvious suppleness of the composite structure. You can clearly see the wings flexing. It almost looks like an Airfix kit.”
“Speaking to the pilot later, he confirmed that as a result of its ultra-light airframe, the 787 is exceptionally manoeuvrable and easy to fly precisely.”
Boeing abandoned plans for a sound barrier-chasing “Sonic Cruiser” 10 years ago and worked on lighter long-range jets as cash-starved airlines valued efficiency over speed. The comapny expects 787 Dreamliner to become the standard for future passenger planes.
Mike Sinnett, the 787 Dreamliner program’s chief project engineer, said:
“Technology will only get more efficient and lighter.
“The plane’s lighter weight allows airlines to operate routes even when the demand is insufficient for larger aircraft like the Boeing 777 or 747, or the Airbus 380 superjumbo.”
Scott Fancher added: “For aviation we believe this is as important as the 707 was with the introduction of the jet age.”
Fancher moved to head off any fears over the new materials, stressing the tough moulded composites used to create the aircraft were nothing like ordinary plastic.
“Plastic is what you have on the dashboard of your car. This is not plastic,” he told reporters.
One of the components that gives Boeing 787 Dreamliner its extraordinary range and fuel economy - 20 per cent less than other equivalent aircraft - are its engines, hi-tech new models made by Rolls Royce
Boeing 787 Dreamliner development program has been delayed seven times due to challenges with engineering, supply chain glitches and a 58-day labor strike in 2008.
“We have been waiting for the 787 for over 3 years as we expected it in the summer of 2008,” said senior vice president Satoru Fujiki who took part in negotiations to buy the 787.
“I can’t say the delayed delivery didn’t have any impact but ANA and Boeing worked closely to mitigate it,” Fujiki said, adding Boeing had provided alternative jets to meet the shortfall.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) has ordered a total of 55 Dreamliners worth $11 billion at current list prices, including 40 of the 260-passenger 787-8 variant being delivered this week.
ANA plans to take delivery of four planes in 2011 and an additional eight next year.
The Seattle Times reported on Sunday that Boeing 787 program costs had topped $32 billion due to delays. That estimate raised questions, the newspaper said, over whether the new jet would make money for Boeing before “well into the 2020s, if ever.” Boeing declined comment on the claims.
Analysts say new jets typically cost closer to $15 billion.
Boeing also faces Wall Street concerns over its ability to reach its target of lifting output to 10 planes a month by 2013.
The delivery comes as Boeing remains locked in a dispute with one of its top labor unions in Washington state, where it has traditionally built its aircraft.
The International Association of Machinists and the National Labor Relations Board accuse Boeing of building a non-union 787 plant in South Carolina to punish the IAM for past strikes.
Boeing denies that claim, saying the jobs in South Carolina represent new employment, not the relocation of existing work.