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US officials in Japan to examine Dreamliner

Aviation experts to inspect Boeing 787 forced to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport due to battery problems.
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2013 06:30
US aviation officials have been tasked to help Japanese authorities in the investigation of the Boeing 787 [Reuters]

A team of experts from US aviation authorities and Boeing have arrived in Japan to inspect a 787 Dreamliner passenger plane that made an emergency landing on a domestic All Nippon Airways' flight.

The incident prompted regulators in the US and around the world to ground the 50 Dreamliners already in service. 

The Japanese plane is being investigated after warning lights indicated a battery problem on the ANA flight on Wednesday.

The 787, a lightweight, mainly carbon-composite aircraft, has been plagued by mishaps, raising concerns over its use of lithium-ion batteries.

The five representatives from the US National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing are helping Japanese authorities in the investigation of the aircraft, which remains parked at the side of Takamatsu airport in the west of the country.

The Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) aims to end its initial checks by around midday on Saturday, a person familiar
with the matter told Reuters, and will make further decisions based on how the investigations go on Friday.

'Vilified'

GS Yuasa Corp, the Japanese company that makes batteries for the Dreamliner, said it has also sent three engineers to Takamatsu to help the investigation.

787 DREAMLINERS ACROSS THE WORLD


All Nippon Airways (Japan)
:
-17 GROUNDED
Japan Airlines:
-7 GROUNDED
United Airlines (United States):
- 6 GROUNDED
LAN Airlines (Chile):
-3 GROUNDED
Air India:
-6 GROUNDED
LOT Airlines (Poland):
- 2 GROUNDED
Qatar Airways:
- 5 GROUNDED
Ethiopian Airlines:
- 4 GROUNDED

A person at the company, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said: "Our company's battery has been vilified for now, but it only functions as part of a whole system.

"So we're trying to find out exactly where there was a problem within the system."

Meanwhile Australia's Qantas Airways said on Friday it had cancelled an order for one of 15 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners earmarked for its budget arm Jetstar.

The decision to cancel the order was reached at the end of 2012, Qantas said in a statement, before the string of recent problems with the aircraft that culminated in the grounding of the Dreamliner fleet.

Poland's airline LOT said it may seek compensation from Boeing for the grounding of its two 787 Dreamliner planes.

LOT said both its Dreamliners are safe to fly, but kept them grounded in Chicago and Warsaw after flight safety authorities banned all Dreamliners from flying.

Tomasz Balcerzak, LOT's deputy president, said on Thursday that the airline is counting costs incurred by the idling of the planes and in due time will complain to Boeing. He stressed the problems are not the fault of the airline.

Huge costs

Meanwhile, Japan's transport ministry said a fuel leak on a Japan Airlines (JAL)-operated 787 last week was due to a malfunction in a drive mechanism that controls a valve.

It said the British company that makes the valve was investigating the problem. The ministry declined to name the firm.

Keeping the 787s on the ground could cost ANA alone more than $1.1m a day, Mizuho Securities calculated, noting the Dreamliner was key to the airline's growth strategy.

JAL has cancelled eight Dreamliner flights on its Tokyo-San Diego route until January 25, affecting about 1,290 passengers, and is switching aircraft for another 70 flights scheduled to fly the 787.

The JTSB has said the battery on the ANA flight that made the emergency landing was blackened and carbonised, had a bulge in the middle, and weighed 5kg less than normal. 

The use of new battery technology is among the cost-saving features of the 787, which Boeing says burns 20 percent less fuel than rival jetliners using older technology.

The plane represents a leap in aircraft design, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays.

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Source:
Agencies
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