Few months after the celebration and delivery of Boeing’s most innovative aircraft, B787, known as the Dreamliner, the aircraft has displayed technical inadequacies.
Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways that were the first airlines that took delivery of the aircraft type have grounded the fleet after one of the Dreamliner passenger jets made an emergency landing, heightening safety concerns over a plane many see as the future of commercial aviation.
According to Reuters, ANA said it was grounding all 17 of its 787s and JAL said it was suspending all flights scheduled for departure last Wednesday.
The two carriers operate around half of the 50 787s delivered by Boeing to date.
“I think you’re nearing the tipping point where they need to regard this as a serious crisis,” said a senior analyst with the Teal Group, Richard Aboulafia. “This is going to change people’s perception of the aircraft if they don’t act quickly.”
ANA said instruments on domestic flight 692 to Haneda Airport near Tokyo from Yamaguchi in western Japan indicated a battery error, triggering emergency warnings to the pilots. The carrier said the battery was the same type as one that caused a fire on another 787 at Boston airport in the US last week.
All 129 passengers and eight crew were evacuated safely via the plane’s inflatable chutes.
The B787 Dreamliner is composed of light-weight composites and features numerous system, engine and aerodynamic advancements making it more efficient to operate compared with its competition. It is the first mid-sized airplane capable of flying long-range routes, enabling airlines to open new, non-stop routes preferred by passengers.
But with all these unique qualities there are fears that airlines might shun this spectacular aircraft.
At a news conference, ANA said a smell was detected in the cockpit and the cabin, and pilots received emergency warning of smoke in the forward electronics compartment.
The incident follows a series of mishaps for the 787. The sophisticated plane, the world’s first mainly carbon-composite airliner, has suffered fuel leaks, a battery fire, wiring problem, brake computer glitch and cracked cockpit window in recent days alone.
Flight 692 was said to have left Yamaguchi Airport shortly after 8 am local time on Wednesday, but made an emergency landing in Takamatsu at 8:45 am after smoke appeared in the cockpit, an Osaka airport authority spokesman said.
Records of the flight show the plane left 10 minutes after its scheduled departure time for a 65-minute flight, according to flight-tracker Flightaware. About 18 minutes later, at 30,000 feet, it began a descent. It descended to 20,000 feet in about four minutes and landed about 16 minutes later.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said five people were slightly injured during the evacuation.
Boeing spokesman, Marc Birtel, told reporters: “We’ve seen the reports; we’re aware of the events and are working with our customer.”
Boeing has hundreds of orders of the aircraft, but it has reported yet whether any airline has indicated withdrawal of the orders but scepticism and apprehension are defining the moment of the fate of the aircraft.