Airbus has announced its first deal with Japanese carrier Japan Airlines (JAL).
The aircraft manufacturing giant has won an order from JAL for 31 of its A350 planes, in a deal worth nearly $9.5 billion at list prices.
The A350 is designed to be more fuel-efficient and is a direct competitor to rival Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which has been hit by safety and technical issues in recent months.
The deal is a blow for Boeing, which has dominated Japan’s aviation market.
“This is Airbus’ largest order for the A350 so far this year and is the largest ever order we have received from a Japanese airline,” said Fabrice Bregier, chief executive of Airbus.
“I must say that achieving this breakthrough order and entering a traditional competitor market was one of my personal goals.”
Airbus has won an order from JAL for 31 of its A350 planes, in a deal worth nearly $9.5 billion at list prices
According to the deal, JAL also has an option to purchase an additional 25 planes.
In recent years, the aviation industry has been hurt by a slowdown in demand and high volatility in global fuel prices.
That has seen many leading carriers turn to more fuel-efficient aircraft in an attempt to cut down costs and maintain profitability.
Both Airbus and Boeing have seen a surge in demand for such planes.
Airbus, which says the A350 will use about 25% less fuel than previous generation wide-bodied aircraft, has had 725 orders for the plane prior to securing the JAL deal.
The company hopes to start delivering the first A350s to customers by the end of 2014.
Yoshiharu Ueki, president of Japan Airlines, said the new planes would offer “high level of operational efficiency and product competitiveness” and help the airline to cater to “new business opportunities after slots at airports in Tokyo are increased”.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner continues to remain popular despite this year’s temporary worldwide grounding of the aircraft while safety regulators investigated the cause of fires. Boeing has received orders for more than 950 Dreamliner jets so far.
Japanese carriers, JAL and All Nippon Airways (ANA), are two of the biggest operators of the Dreamliner jets.
Airline safety inspectors have found no faults with the battery used on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, Japan’s transport ministry has announced.
Dreamliner’s battery was initially considered the likely source of problems on 787s owned by two Japanese airlines.
The world’s entire fleet of 50 787s has been grounded while inspections are carried out.
Attention has now shifted to the electrical system that monitors battery voltage, charging and temperature.
Transport ministry official Shigeru Takano said “we have found no major quality or technical problem” with the lithium-ion batteries. Shares in GS Yuasa, which makes the batteries, jumped 5% on the news.
“We are looking into affiliated parts makers,” he said.
“We are looking into possibilities.”
Airline safety inspectors have found no faults with the battery used on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner
The safety investigation started after one of the 787s operated by All Nippon Airways made an emergency landing in Japan when its main battery overheated. Earlier, a battery in a Japan Airlines 787 caught fire while parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
Two weeks ago the US Federal Aviation Administration said both batteries had leaked electrolyte fluid, and there had been smoke damage to parts of the aircraft.
The FAA said airlines must demonstrate battery safety before flights could resume, a statement that effectively meant airlines had to ground their 787s.
Boeing, which competes against Europe’s Airbus, has halted 787 deliveries. Boeing has orders for more than 800 Dreamliners.
The 787 is the first airliner made mostly from lightweight composite materials that boost fuel efficiency. It also relies on electronic systems rather than hydraulic or mechanical systems to a greater degree than any other airliner.
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.”
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?>>”