US regulators ground Boeing 787s due to safety concerns

Wednesday 16 January 2013 23.44
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A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by All Nippon Airways sits on the tarmac after an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by All Nippon Airways sits on the tarmac after an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport
All Nippon Airways Vice president Osamu Shinobe (C) speaks, while executive Hiroyuki Ito (L) looks on, at a press conference in Tokyo
All Nippon Airways Vice president Osamu Shinobe (C) speaks, while executive Hiroyuki Ito (L) looks on, at a press conference in Tokyo

US regulators have grounded Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner passenger jet, saying a recent series of safety incidents meant urgent action was needed.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it would require airlines to demonstrate that the plane's cutting-edge batteries were safe before allowing further flights.

It has notified regulators in other countries of its action as well.

Japan's two leading airlines already grounded their fleets of Boeing 787s after one of the Dreamliner passenger jets made an emergency landing, the latest in a series of incidents that have heightened safety concerns over a plane many see as the future of commercial aviation.

All Nippon Airways Co said instruments aboard a flight indicated a battery error, triggering emergency warnings.

The incident was described by a transport official as "highly serious" - language used in international safety circles to indicate there could have been an accident.

ANA said it was grounding all 17 of its 787s and Japan Airlines said it was suspending all flights scheduled for departure.

The two carriers operate around half of the 50 Dreamliners delivered by Boeing to date.

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 the one that caused a fire on another Dreamliner at a US airport last week.

All 129 passengers and eight crew were evacuated safely via the plane's inflatable chutes.

At a news conference, ANA said a smell was detected in the cockpit and the cabin, and pilots received an emergency warning of smoke in the forward electronic compartment.

The incident follows a series of mishaps for the new Dreamliner.

The 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 left Yamaguchi Airport shortly after 8am local time, but made an emergency landing in Takamatsu at 8.45am after smoke appeared in the cockpit, an Osaka airport authority spokesman said.

Records of the flight show the plane left ten minutes after its scheduled departure time for a 65-minute flight, according to flight-tracking website Flightaware.com.

About 18 minutes later, at 9,100 metres (30,000 feet), it began a descent.

It descended to 6,000 metres (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 Reuters: "We've seen the reports, we're aware of the events and are working with our customer."

India's aviation regulator said it was reviewing the Dreamliner's safety.

State-owned Air India has six of the aircraft in service and more on order.