Federal aviation regulators ordered all 787 Dreamliner jets in the U.S. grounded following a spate of mechanical troubles that have called into question the safety of Boeing’s prized airplane model.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took the rare action of grounding the airplanes hours after Japan’s top two airlines suspended all of their Dreamliner flights following an apparent battery fire that forced an All Nippon Airlines flight to make an emergency landing in that country Tuesday. That event was preceded by another emergency on January 7 when a battery fire erupted onboard a Japan Airlines 787 on the runway at Boston’s Logan Airport. The day after the JAL fire in Boston, another JAL flight also at Logan Airport was delayed several hours when a fuel leak was discovered on one of the aircraft’s wings.
The U.S. and Japanese groundings prompted the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to suspend all Dreamliner flights within Europe. Other airlines, including Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, Latam Airlines, and Qatar Airways followed suit, effectively grounding all of the Dreamliner jets in service around the world.
“As a result of an in-flight, Boeing 787 battery incident earlier today in Japan, the FAA will issue an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) to address a potential battery fire risk in the 787 and require operators to temporarily cease operations,” the FAA said in a statement. “Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered, Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the batteries are safe.”
The FAA said it would work with Boeing and affected carriers to develop a corrective action plan that would “allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible.”
The FAA explained that the battery fires aboard the two Japanese Dreamliner flights resulted in a release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage, and smoke. If the root cause of these failures isn’t corrected, they “could result in damage to critical systems and structures, and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment,” the FAA said.
Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners are coveted by commercial airlines because their lighter weight and battery technology computes to a reduction in fuel by as much as 20 percent. For airline carriers, just a two-percent reduction in fuel usage amounts to substantial savings.