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Rediff.com  » Business » US federal agency asks to ground all Boeing Dreamliners

US federal agency asks to ground all Boeing Dreamliners

January 17, 2013 10:19 IST

DreamlinerUS federal agency has asked its airlines to ground the Boeing 787, popularly known as Dreamliner, due to safety hazard.

Such a directive to 'temporarily cease operations' comes after the US Federal Aviation Authority conducted an investigation of an in-flight Boeing 787 battery incident in Japan on Wednesday, which posed a question on a potential battery fire risk in the 787.

"Before further flight, operators of US-registered, Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration that the batteries are safe," the FAA said in a statement.

The United Airlines, which is currently the only American airlines operating the 787, with six airplanes in service, announced to immediately suspend the services of its Dreamliners.

Early this month United Airlines has introduced daily nonstop 787 Dreamliner service between Los Angeles and Tokyo.

There was no immediate reaction from Air India, which is among the few international airlines in Asia to boast of the Dreamliners.

"When the FAA issues an airworthiness directive, it also alerts the international aviation community to the action so other civil aviation authorities can take parallel action to cover the fleets operating in their own countries," the federal body said.

FAA said the in-flight Japanese battery incident followed an earlier 787 battery incident that occurred on the ground in Boston on January 7, 2013.

The airworthiness directive is prompted by this second incident involving a lithium ion battery.

"The battery failures resulted in release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage, and smoke on two Model 787 airplanes.

"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," it said.

Last Friday, the FAA announced a comprehensive review of the 787's critical systems with the possibility of further action pending new data and information.

In addition to the continuing review of the aircraft's design, manufacture and assembly, the agency will also validate that 787 batteries and the battery system on the aircraft are in compliance with the special condition the agency issued as part of the aircraft's certification, it said.

The American aircraft maker had last Friday jointly announced investigations with FAA after three of these aircraft owned by the Japanese carriers suffered glitches this month -- an electrical fire, fuel leakage and a broken cockpit window.

In September last, Air India had also experienced a glitch in its Dreamliner's liquid cooling system and electrical power system, which had led to the grounding of all three of these planes at that time.

After the faults were rectified, these aircraft have been flying regularly on select domestic and international routes.

Regarding the problem of fuel leaks, the Air India officials had said this was not something 'unusual as it occurs in all aircraft types.

'Such problems have to be rectified immediately but these are not anything new or different.' Boeing had designated a team in Delhi for any trouble- shooting for Dreamliners.

Dreamliners, the latest and most technologically advanced offering from Boeing, is made of lightweight composite materials instead of aluminium.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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