Cracks and leaks turn Dreamliner to a nightmare
Five incidents in five days prompts inquiry into plane previously approved for take off
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Saturday 12 January 2013
A series of glitches with Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner have led American regulators to take the unusual step of launching a review of a plane they had already approved, focusing on its electrical systems.
The move comes after no less than five incidents involving the new plane were reported in the last five days. They included a battery fire discovered following the detection of smoke in the empty cabin of a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
Just today, Japan’s All Nippon Airways, the largest operator of the new jet, said one of its Dreamliners had suffered a small oil leak, while a different plane was grounded for repairs after the discovery of a crack on its cockpit windscreen.
Earlier in the week, a day after the battery fire, a fuel leak forced another Japan Airlines jet to return to its gates minutes before take-off from Boston. Around 40 gallons of fuel was spewed across the tarmac.
With the glitches adding up, technical experts from the US Federal Aviation Administration, who clocked up some 200,000 hours on testing the jet before giving it the all-clear in August 2011, will once again go over the design, manufacture and assembly of the airliner.
The review, which will be conducted jointly with the company, is the latest cloud over the Dreamliner, which has been beset by cost overruns and production delays. Composed mainly of light-weight composite materials instead of the usual aluminum, it was sold as a more fuel efficient alternative to the current crop of gas-guzzling jets, and was Boeing’s way of taking on Airbus and its new A380 super-jumbo, which also had a setback after the discovery of wing cracks last January, which triggered inspections. Late last year, Airbus’s European parent, EADS, said it was taking a €200m (£165m) hit because of the money spent on repairs.
Boeing is not yet facing any such bill. But it could end up with a costly headache if the FAA review calls for a change in the design of the 787 or in the way the American company puts the planes together.
Today, following the announcement of the review, Boeing’s shares fell by more than 2 per cent in early afternoon trading.
Officials were careful to stress the safety of the new planes, however, with President Barack Obama’s Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, saying: “I believe this plane is safe and I would have absolutely no reservations about boarding one of these planes and taking a flight.”
No one has been injured in the recent incidents, and the review does not call for the grounding of Dreamliner flights. “But we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta added.
Today, Boeing, which has received 848 orders for the new plane and delivered 49, pointed out that the issues with the new jet were on par with teething problems encountered when it launched its successful 777 jet in the 1990s.
Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way
Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down
The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
- 1 Salisbury ranked seventh-best city in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Chicago voter tells Obama 'don't touch my girlfriend' – Obama stays super smooth
Oscar Pistorius: The brutal prison life that awaits disgraced athlete
Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Raphael Ravenscroft dead: 'Baker Street' musician who played the most famous saxophone solo for just £27, dies aged 60
Darren Vann: Indiana man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear more
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...
£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...
£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...