FAA Grounds Boeing Dreamliner Fleet After Another Fire Breaks Out
January 16, 2013

FAA Grounds Boeing Dreamliner Fleet After Another Fire Breaks Out

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Less than a week after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was ordering a review of Boeing´s 787 Dreamliner airplanes, a call was made today to temporarily ground the super jets pending a “corrective action plan.”

The FAA made the announcement Wednesday January 16th to ground all American-based flights and did not offer a timetable for when the planes might take to the air once again. The agency said it would work with Boeing and airlines to develop a plan to resume operations as soon as possible.

Adhering to the announcement, United Airlines, currently the only airline operating the Boeing 787s, grounded all six of its Dreamliners.

"United will immediately comply with the airworthiness directive and will work closely with the FAA and Boeing on the technical review as we work toward restoring 787 service," spokeswoman Christen David told USA Today.

All Nippon Airways (ANA), the Japanese airline that sparked the initial review process, voluntarily grounded its entire fleet of 787s as well.

Last Friday, the FAA called for a review of Boeing´s 787s after a fire broke out in one of ANA's aircraft after it had landed in Boston. Another ANA Dreamliner had an oil leak earlier that week that contributed to the FAA review order.

Japan´s two main airlines suspended all Dreamliner flights earlier Wednesday after a new incident prompted an emergency landing. A battery box that caught fire in that 787 has led US regulators to question the electrical safety of these planes, making the call to ground all flights until further notice.

It was just last Friday when Michael Huerta of the FAA made the remark that he was “confident about the safety of this aircraft,” but was concerned about the incidents.

ANA, which cut short a domestic flight Wednesday due to its battery fire, said it will keep all flights grounded at least through Thursday, pending an investigation into the nature of the 787s´ problems.

The two Japanese airlines together operate 24 of the 50 Dreamliners in service, and All Nippon was the first airline to fly the plane when it entered service in 2011.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it will assist local air-safety regulators in Japan who are leading a probe of their own into the latest incident. The FAA told The Wall Street Journal it “will include the incident as part of the comprehensive review” opened last Friday.

The troubles emerged around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Japan, when an alarm on ANA Flight 692 bound for Tokyo indicated a problem with the jet´s battery about 15 minutes into the 90-minute flight. Shortly thereafter, the cockpit crew reported a “burning-like smell,” according to the airline.

A passenger on the airplane, Kenichi Kawamura, said the smell filled the cabin and “it smelled like burning plastic.”

About 40 minutes after takeoff, the plane made an emergency landing at an airport on the island of Shikoku, nearly 400 miles from its scheduled destination. After the plane landed safely, seven emergency-evacuation slides deployed and passengers and crew exited the aircraft.

No injuries due to the fire were reported, but at least three evacuees reported receiving minor injuries during their escape.

"Boeing is aware of the diversion of a 787 operated by ANA to Takamatsu in western Japan. We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies," Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said in a statement to USA Today.

ANA said the exact cause of Wednesday´s incident was still undetermined, but company officials said when they opened the forward electronic-equipment bay where the battery was installed, they discovered that the battery´s blue cover had turned black “as though it had been burnt” and they found evidence of electrolysis solution that had leaked.

The NTSB removed the burnt auxiliary power unit battery from the Japan 787 as part of its probe into the January 7 fire aboard the 787 that made the emergency landing at Boston´s Logan Airport.

ANA acknowledged that the Dreamliner involved in Wednesday morning´s emergency landing had battery problems in the past, stating one of the plane´s two batteries was replaced in October after it failed to start the engines. The replacement battery was the problem with Wednesday´s incident as well.