Two Japanese airlines have grounded all their Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes after technical failures struck several of the jets within a matter of days. Boeing is now trying to salvage the Dreamliner’s image as the world’s most advanced passenger jet.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) has grounded 17 of its Boeing 787s for emergency inspections after a battery malfunction forced an ANA Dreamliner to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport in western Japan on Wednesday morning. Japan Airlines (JAl) has also suspended flights of all of its seven Dreamliners on Wednesday over safety concerns.
The two Japanese airlines operate more Dreamliners than any other carriers, accounting for 24 planes out of the 50 sold around the world so far. Both carriers have also placed large orders for more of the Boeing jets.
Japanese Transport Minister Akihiro Ota called the emergency landing at Takamatsu a “serious incident that could have led to a serious accident.”
Japanese national broadcaster NHK quoted a passenger as saying that he "smelled something strange" after takeoff and was afraid the plane was going to crash. All 129 passengers and eight crew on board were safely evacuated using the plane's inflatable slides, though five people sustained minor injuries.
Japanese media reported that smoke was detected inside the cockpit, while the company claimed that the pilots made the decision to land after detecting a battery problem. "[The plane] made an emergency landing at Takamatsu because there was an error message during the flight," ANA spokesperson Naoko Yamamoto said.
The Japanese stock market reacted sharply to the news, prompting a slide in value by several percentage points for Boeing’s Japanese suppliers.
The incident with ANA’s Dreamliner is one in a recent string of malfunctions by the world’s most advanced model of passenger plane. Several Dreamliner jets have suffered accumulator fires, brake computer mishaps, cracks in the cockpit front window, fuel leakages and wiring problems.
Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is seen as a next-generation passenger jet, which uses composite materials instead of aluminum and electric drivers instead of hydraulics.
The incidents could force aviation regulators to ground all 50 Dreamliners for sweeping technical inspections. The US Federal Aviation Administration has already launched a high-priority review of the jet’s design.
With its brand image under fire, Boeing was quick to react: “We've seen the reports, we're aware of the events and are working with our customer,” Boeing spokesperson Marc Birtel told Reuters.
But despite the prompt reaction, one Boeing customer has already expressed concerns. Indian authorities said on Wednesday they are starting their own investigation, as state-owned Air India operates six Dreamliners and has more on order.
India’s aviation regulatory agency vowed to conduct a safety review the Dreamliner and hold direct talks with the jet’s manufacturer. Still, India has no plans to ground any of their Dreamliners, or cancel the orders for more.
With over 800 Dreamliners on order, Boeing likely has no room for further technical mishaps that could damage the image of its carbon-composite flagship.