Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes grounded WORLDWIDE amid battery leak fears
Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes grounded WORLDWIDE amid battery leak fears
- US federal officials ground new planes to address safety fear
- Two Japanese airlines ground fleets of new aircraft following incident
- Poland’s Lot Airlines and Air India follow suit cancelling 787 flights
- Qatar airlines flight to Doha with 254 passengers booked was cancelled
- Plane forced to land after cockpit message showed battery problems
- Incident is the latest in a number of glitches with Boeing’s new aircraft
- But British Airways said it will press ahead with its order for 24 787s
By Ray Massey
Boeing’s flagship 787 Dreamliner planes were grounded worldwide today after corrosive fluid leaked from its high-tech battery system forcing a packed passenger jet to make an emergency landing.
Flight officials in Europe, America and Asia banned the craft from taking off amid fears the faulty lithium-type batteries could start fires on board.
The dramatic move spells disaster for the aviation giant and comes after 137 passengers and crew members on an All Nippon Airlines flight were evacuated down escape chutes when smoke was detected on board.
Airlines were today scrambling to rearrange flights for the thousands of passengers affected.
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Grounded: Passengers are forced to evacuate a Japanese Boeing Dreamliner using the planes escape slides following an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport yesterday
Japan’s two largest air carriers All Nippon Airlines and Japan Airlines voluntarily grounded their 787s yesterday following the emergency landing at Takamatsu airport
A Japanese All Nippon Airlines Dreamliner was forced to make an emergency landing after a cockpit message warned of battery problems
The string of disasters is expected to cost millions. Boeing shares yesterday dropped $ 2.60, or 3.4 per cent, to close Wednesday at $ 74.34, and the sell-off continued in after-hours trading.
This morning European aviation regulators followed America’s lead in ordering the grounding of problem-stricken craft.
Six Dreamliners owned by United Airlines, the only U.S. airline to operate the plane, will be subject to strict safety tests before being allowed to take off.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG WITH BOEING’S FLAGSHIP CRAFT
What are the problems with the new Dreamliner?
The 21st-century plane entered service in October 2011, three years late, following a range of design and safety-related issues.
The airlines that ordered it have been exasperated by the delays, and the problems created in their fleet planning.
Despite the problems, purely in terms of forward sales, the 787 is the most successful new aircraft in history.
Why are airlines rushing to buy the 787?
The Dreamliner has the longest range of any passenger jets but even more significantly it is the most efficient, vitally important as fuel costs now represent operators’ largest expenditure.
Passenger comfort is also paramount with bigger windows, more room for carry-on baggage, and higher pressurisation to make long flights more bearable.
What have been the latest disasters?
Oil was discovered leaking from a generator on an engine at a Japanese airport. A crack then appeared in a cockpit window of a plane on a domestic flight.
On January 7, an electrical fire was discovered aboard a plane at Boston airport as it prepared for a trip to Japan.
A Japan Airlines flight aborted takeoff from Boston on January 8 after a pilot on board another aircraft spotted the 787 leaking fuel.
Yet another Japanese flight was cancelled last week after problems were detected with the plane’s braking system.
In December, a United Airlines 787 traveling from Houston to Newark, New Jersey, was diverted to New Orleans because of mechanical problems.
A general inspection of all 787s in September turned up cracked engines on two planes.
Yesterday the Indian government ordered Air India to ground its fleet of six 787s while a Qatar airlines flight from London’s Heathrow airport was also cancelled.
And the two Dreamliners owned by Poland’s LOT Airlines were also grounded alongside the 24 in Japan.
It means the majority of the world’s 50 787s are now grounded pending safety checks.
Civil aviation authorities in other countries will now be under pressure to follow America’s lead or face possible accusations of taking unnecessary risks with public safety.
Only hours before the FAA issued its order, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reiterated to reporters that he considers the plane safe and wouldn’t hesitate to fly one.
LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta unequivocally declared the plane safe at a news conference last week even while they ordered a safety review of the aircraft.
However, as details emerged of two battery failures only 10 days apart, it became apparent that the FAA wouldn’t be able to wait for completion of its safety review before taking action.
Despite the concerns British Airways said it will press ahead with its order for 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners saying it was satisfied the plane was safe and will continue as planned to take delivery of its first plane in May, with three more to follow by the end of the year.
A British Airways spokesman said: ’The safety and security of our customers will always be at the heart of our operation and all our business decisions. We remain committed to taking delivery of our first Boeing 787 later this year.
‘We are confident that any safety concerns will be fully addressed by Boeing and the FAA as part of their recently announced review into the aircraft.
The first BA Dreamliner will arrive with the airline in May with three more to follow before the end of the year. The airline said the planes will carry 214 passengers with 35 club world seats, 25 world traveller plus and 154 economy.
An inspection of the All Nippon Airways 787 that made an emergency landing in western Japan found the battery in an electrical room beneath the cockpit was swollen and had leaked electrolyte, safety inspector Hideyo Kosugi said on Japanese broadcaster NHK.
Investigators found burn marks around the battery, though it was not thought to have caught fire. Kosugi also said the electrolyte liquid leaked through the electrical room floor to the outside of the aircraft, Kyodo news agency reported.
In the first battery incident on Jan. 7, it took firefighters 40 minutes to put out a blaze centered in an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787. The plane was empty of passengers shortly after landing at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
The electrolyte fluid also conducts electricity, so as it spreads it can cause short-circuits and ignite fires.
Safety fears: A Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight from Heathrow was cancelled as safety fears over the ‘plastic plane’ intensified
Touchdown: A Qatar Airways Dreamliner is seen coming in to land at the Farnborough International Airshow in July last year. The aircraft has been plagued with safety issues since entering commercial service in 2011
And its corrosiveness raises concern about whether a leak might weaken a key support structure of the plane, even though the 787 is the first airliner to be made primarily from lightweight composite materials that are less susceptible to corrosion than aluminum, safety experts said.
DREAM BECOMES A NIGHTMARE: HOW BOEING GOT IS SO WRONG
It was heralded as the future of passenger aviation, an ultra-modern jet that could fly further while burning 20 per cent less fuel than any of its rivals.
The 787 represented a huge leap in the way planes are designed and built, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays.
The 787 relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does.
One of the reasons it’s so lightweight is because it uses electricity to do things that other airplanes do with hot air vented through internal ducts.
It’s also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries for its main electrical system.
The batteries charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries, allowing the use of lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.
The plane has two batteries – the main one near the front and a second one in the rear.
Worries over potential fire risks from lithium ion batteries, with their well-known flammability, predate the launch of the 787.
The FAA had issued special precautions for installation of such batteries on board the 787s.
Boeing has outlined ambitious plans to double its production rate to 10 planes a month by the end of 2013. It is also starting to build a stretch version and considering an even larger one after that.
The defence and aerospace corporation is worth an estimated $ 80bn and made a recorded $ 4bn profit in 2011.
They currently employ around 174,000 staff around the world.
‘Anytime you have leakage of battery fluid it’s a very serious situation,’ said Kevin Hiatt, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation in Alexandria, Va., which promotes global airline safety.
The fluid leak identified in the ANA plane was a ‘very significant finding,’ said John Goglia, an expert on aircraft maintenance and a former National Transportation Safety Board member. It’s possible that a leak could interfere with electrical signals, making it impossible for pilots to control the plane, he said. ‘There are all kinds of possibilities,’ Goglia said. ‘They need to go in and take a look at it. I guarantee you everybody’s doing that.’
The 787 is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium-ion batteries to help power its energy-hungry electrical systems. The batteries charge faster and can be better molded to space-saving shapes compared with other airplane batteries.
‘Unfortunately, what Boeing did to save weight is use the same batteries that are in the electric cars, and they are running into the same problems with the 787 as the problems that have shown up in electric cars,’ said Paul Czysz, professor emeritus of aeronautical engineering at St. Louis University.
The lithium-ion batteries in several Chevrolet Volts used for crash-testing caught fire in 2011. General Motors engineers eventually figured out that the fires were the result of a battery coolant leak that caused electrical shorts after side-impact crash tests. GM retrofitted the car with more steel to protect the battery. No fires were ever reported on real-world roads.
Jim McNerney, Boeing’s chairman, president and CEO, said the company is working with the FAA to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
‘We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity,” he said in a statement. “We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787′s safety and to return the airplanes to service.’
Mike Sinnett, chief engineer on the 787, said last week that the plane’s batteries have operated through a combined 1.3 million hours and never had an internal fault. He said they were built with multiple protections to ensure that failures ‘don’t put the airplane at risk.’
The plane made the landing in Takamatsu after a burning smell was also detected in the cockpit. Both All Nippon Airlines and Japan Airlines have grounded their entire fleets of the problematic aircraft
The lithium-ion design was chosen because it’s the only type of battery that can take a large charge in a short amount of time.
WHERE THEY FLY: 787 ROUTES
QATAR AIRWAYS uses its five Dreamliners for services to London, Munich, Zurich and Frankfurt.
AIR INDIA has six Dreamliners which it uses on domestic routes as well international services from India to Dubai, Frankfurt and Paris.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES operates four Dreamliners on flights from to Johannesburg, Washington D.C., Toronto, Frankfurt, Beijing, Lusaka and Harare
LOT POLISH AIRLINES has two Dreamliners used on flights between Warsaw and London Heathrow and Warsaw and Vienna and some flights to the U.S.
ALL NIPPON AIRLINES had been operating 17 Dreamliners on domestic routes as well as international flights including a service from Tokyo to San Jose in the U.S.
JAPAN AIRLINES has seven Dreamliners which had been used on services between Haneda and Singapore, Narita and Boston, and Narita and Singapore.
UNITED AIRLINES has six Dreamliners operating on domestic services mainly from their Houston hub to destinations such as San Fransisco, Chicago, Newark, Cleveland and Washington Dulles
An international service between Houston and Amsterdam was scheduled to begin on December 4.
Services between L.A. and Tokyo, Houston and Lagos, Nigeria were expected to begin early this year
Neither GS Yuasa Corp., the Japanese company that supplies the batteries for the 787, nor Thales, which makes the battery charging system, would comment on the recent troubles.
Boeing and its customers will need to move quickly to resolve the problem. The aircraft maker has booked orders for more than 800 of the planes from airlines around the world attracted by its increased fuel efficiency.
The jet’s lightweight design makes it more of a fuel-efficient. It’s so lightweight in part because it uses electricity to do things that other airplanes do with hot air vented through internal ducts. So a 787 with electrical problems is like a minivan that won’t haul kids. It goes to the heart of what the thing was built to do.
The FAA order had airlines, flight crews and passengers scrambling to figure out what to do next. Stanislaw Radzio, the captain of a LOT Polish Airlines 787 that landed at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago late Wednesday, told The Associated Press he wasn’t sure when the plane would be heading back to Poland.
‘We’re grounded like everyone else,’ he said. ‘We are very unhappy with the situation.’
He said he was told of the FAA decision during the flight from Warsaw. A captain and flight instructor at the Polish airline since 1999, Radzio said the 787 is the nicest plane he’s ever flown.
A passenger on the flight, Taras Dukyn, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he was surprised when told of the grounding by reporters, but would be willing to fly the aircraft again if the problems were fixed.
‘It’s a really nice plane. Computers in every chair. It was comfortable, although I was a little hot,’ he said.
The sophisticated new plane, the world’s first mainly carbon-composite airliner, suffered two fuel leaks, a battery fire, a wiring problem, brake computer glitch and cracked cockpit window last week.
Japan’s two biggest airlines have now grounded all their Dreamliners in the most serious blow yet to Boeing’s troubled next-generation model
The incident is the latest of a number of recent problems with Boeing’s new Dreamliner aircraft
ANA said it evacuated 129 passengers and eight crew members from the Dreamliner after measuring instruments in the flight’s cockpit indicated there was a battery malfunction and the pilot smelled something strange.
The company said it is still checking whether there was any smoke emitted into the cockpit.
Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said: ‘We’ve seen the reports, we’re aware of the events and are working with our customer.’
Both Japan and the United States have opened investigations into the plane after a series of incidents have raised safety concerns
Boeing has said technical problems were to be expected in the early days of any aircraft model
THE BOEING DREAMLINER 787: A HISTORY OF FAILURES AND DELAY
December 2003 - Boeing announces that a new state-of-the-art plane would be assembled in its factory in Everett, Washington.
January 2005 – Boeing designates its new plane the 787, announcing that the high-tech jet will enter service in May 2008.
December 2006 - The first six 787s are revealed to be overweight.
September 5 2007 – Boeing announces a three-month delay, blaming a shortage of fasteners as well as incomplete software
October 11 2007 – Boeing announces delay of six months due to production problems, pushing first delivery back to December 2008.
January 16 2008 – Boeing announces a third three-month delay, citing insufficient progress on ‘traveled work’.
April 9 2008 – Boeing officially announces a fourth delay, shifting the maiden flight to the fourth quarter of 2008, and delaying initial deliveries by around 15 months to the third quarter of 2009.
November 4, 2008 – The company announces a fifth delay due to incorrect fastener installation and the Boeing machinists strike, stating that the first test flight would not occur in the fourth quarter of 2008.
December 11 2008 – Boeing acknowledges a sixth delay of six-months with first delivery scheduled for early 2010.
June 2009 – Boeing stuns the industry by postponing the first flight indefinitely after engineers find structural flaws.
August 2010 – Another delay announced, citing engine delivery issues from Rolls Royce.
November 2010 – A test flight is forced into an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas, after crew notice smoke in the cabin.
October 11 2011 – First commercial flight of Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Narita, Japan, to Hong Kong on All Nippon Airways.
February 6 2012 – Boeing reports signs of ‘delamination’ occurring on a support structure in the Dreamliner’s rear fuselage, launching an inspection.
July 11 2012 – A fire breaks out in the ground power unit beneath a Qatar Airways Boeing Dreamliner at the Farnborough Airshow.
July 30 2012 – Debris from a brand-new Dreamliner’s engine sparks a fire at a South Carolina airport forcing emergency crews to close the Charleston International Airport for more than an hour.
September 15 2012 – NTSB requests the grounding of certain 787s due to GE engine failures.
December 4 2012 – United Airlines’ brand-new Dreamliner, carrying 174 passengers and 10 crew, is forced to make an emergency landing in New Orleans due to a mechanical issue.
December 13 2012 – Qatar Airways grounds one of its Dreamliners after several similar faults caused electrical problems.
January 9 2013 – All Nippon Airlines is forced to cancel a domestic flight to Tokyo after a computer wrongly indicated a problem with the 787′s brakes.
January 7 2013 – A Dreamliner catches fire after dropping off 183 passengers and crew in Boston when a battery in the jet’s auxiliary power system overheated.
January 8 2013 – A fuel leak forces a Japan Airlines-operated 787 to cancel takeoff at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
January 11 2013 – The Federal Aviation Administration launch a review after a crack appears in a cockpit window during a domestic All Nippon Airways flight in Japan.
January 13 2013 – Another fuel leak from a Dreamliner plane is reported at Narita International airport in Tokyo.
VIDEO Moment passengers evacuated from Boeing 787 after emergency landing