Japan Airlines has temporarily grounded one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport after white smoke was spotted outside the plane and a battery cell showed signs of leaking.
The incident raised fresh concerns about the 787’s safety and reliability almost exactly one year after the global Dreamliner fleet was grounded by regulators following the overheating of two such batteries, although Boeing said design changes made as a result had worked as planned.
Boeing said it was “aware of the 787 issue that occurred on Tuesday afternoon at Narita, which appears to have involved the venting of a single battery cell”.
Venting is the process of fumes and heat being channeled outside the battery casing and the aircraft when the battery overheats.
“The issue occurred during scheduled maintenance activities with no passengers on board,” said Boeing.”The improvements made to the 787 battery system last year appear to have worked as designed.”
Boeing shares closed down 0.5 percent at $140.01 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The incident, which was disclosed by Japan Airlines early on Wednesday local time, came nearly a year to the day after Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways grounded their 787 fleets after two 787 batteries overheated on two different planes in less than two weeks.
Global regulators grounded the worldwide fleet on January 16, 2013. The 787s remained grounded for more than three months while Boeing redesigned the battery, charger and containment system to ensure battery fires would not put the airplane at risk.
The cause of the battery problems has not been determined.
Plagued with problems
The 787 Dreamliner is Boeing’s state-of-the-art plane, built with carbon-fiber composite materials and a powerful electrical system to reduce weight and improve the jet’s fuel efficiency.
But the 250-seat jetliner, which costs about $212m at list prices, has been plagued with problems.
It was more than three years late in entering service, due to issues with parts fabrication by suppliers around the world.
Since entering service, it has had issues with brakes, fuel lines, electrical panels and hydraulics, and other systems.
In July, after the 787 was cleared to return to service, an Ethiopian Airlines jet caught fire at London’s Heathrow Airport, scorching the fuselage.
The cause of the fire was never firmly established, but UK investigators traced the probable cause to faulty wiring of a lithium battery in an emergency beacon located in the ceiling near the tail of the plane.