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FAA grounds U.S. Boeing 787s

Jan. 16, 2013 at 7:12 PM   |   Comments

TOKYO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- On the same day two Japanese airlines grounded their Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets, U.S. regulators ordered airlines to take their Dreamliners out of service.

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 made an emergency landing in Japan with all aboard safe, but the incident led ANA and Japan Airlines to ground all their new 787s.

Wednesday's emergency landing, with 137 crew and passengers aboard, was the latest in a series of recent incidents involving the U.S. aircraft maker's much-admired, technologically advanced plane.

The Japan Transport Safety Board has begun an investigation, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board reported. An NTSB investigator, Lorenda Ward, has been assigned to assist the Japanese agency.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered U.S. airlines late Wednesday to stop flying their Dreamliner jets until they can demonstrate they have patched a fire risk associated with battery failures aboard the crafts, CNN reported.

"The battery failures resulted in release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage, and smoke on two model 787 airplanes," the FAA said. "The root cause of these failures is currently under investigation. These conditions, if not corrected, could result in damage to critical systems and structures, and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment."

ANA's Boeing 787 Flight 692 bound for Tokyo landed about 8:45 a.m. at Takamatsu Airport in western Japan, about 30 minutes after taking off from the Yamaguchi Ube airport, Kyodo News reported.

All the 137 crew members and passengers aboard evacuated the plane upon landing, but one passenger complained of pain in the lower back and was taken to hospital, Kyodo reported, quoting ANA and local fire department officials.

At news conference, Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government's main spokesman, said another five people on board were slightly injured, but other details were available, the report said.

ANA Vice President Osamu Watanabe said the landing at Takamatsu airport was made after a battery alarm signal activated on the plane, CNN reported. Some of those aboard reported a burning smell in the cabin.

CNN quoted officials as saying one alarm indicated smoke in a forward electrical compartment.

After the incident, CNN said both ANA, which has 17 Boeing 787s, and Japan Airlines, which has seven of the planes, grounded them, but it was not clear how long the planes would remain out of service.

Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said the company was "aware of the event and working with the customer."

Other recent incidents involving the Dreamliner include reports of an oil leak, engine cracks and a damaged cockpit window.

CNN said there had also been production delays for the Dreamliner, which was brought into service in 2011. Since then, 50 of the planes are operated by different airlines.

The NTSB said it was collecting information on Wednesday's emergency landing.

The FAA, which is doing a comprehensive examination of the plane's design, manufacture and assembly, said the incident in Japan would be included in its examination.

Boeing issued a news release Jan. 11 saying it "is confident in the design and performance of the 787" and that the 787 is "a safe and efficient airplane that brings tremendous value to our customers and an improved flying experience to their passengers."

The company said the 787 has logged 50,000 hours of flight and there are currently more than 150 daily Dreamliner flights.

The company said that the 787 "completed the most robust and rigorous certification process in the history of the FAA" more than a year ago.

On the joint review with the FAA review, Boeing said while the 787's reliability is on par with the best in class, "we have experienced in-service issues in recent months and we are never satisfied while there is room for improvement." It said the company standard practice "calls on us to apply rigorous and ongoing validation of our tools, processes and systems so that we can always be ensured that our products bring the highest levels of safety and reliability to our customers."

CNN quoted Boeing chief engineer Mike Sinnett as saying last week he was confident about the plane's battery system and that he was "100 percent convinced the airplane is safe to fly. I fly on it all the time."

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