More airlines ground Boeing's Dreamliner indefinitely

Thursday 17 January 2013 17.29
Boeing Dreamliner was grounded by US authorities as well as several airlines around the world
Boeing Dreamliner was grounded by US authorities as well as several airlines around the world

Ethiopian Airlines said it was grounding its four Boeing Dreamliners for "precautionary inspection", even though its aircraft had not encountered the same malfunctions suffered by other airlines.

Airlines in Europe, Japan, Qatar, India and the United States have grounded Boeing's 787 Dreamliner passenger jets while battery-related problems are investigated.

Ethiopian Airlines became the first airline in Africa to operate the Dreamliner in August.

The move came a day after a second incident involving battery failure caused one of the Dreamliner passenger jets to make an emergency landing.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said yesterday it would temporarily ground Boeing's newest commercial airliner and insisted airlines would have to demonstrate the lithium ion batteries were safe before they could resume flying. It gave no details on when that might happen.

It is the first such action against a US-made passenger plane since the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was grounded in 1979 after a deadly crash in Chicago, analysts said.

Japanese Transport Ministry Vice Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said the grounding there was for an indefinite period, and India's aviation regulator said it was unclear when the aircraft would be back in service.

A spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency said the region would follow the US grounding order. Poland's LOT Airlines is the only European airline currently operating the 787.

Boeing said in a statement it was confident the 787 was safe and it stood by the plane's integrity.

"Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible. The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities. We will make available the entire resources of The Boeing Company to assist," chief executive Jim McNerney said.

Boeing shares fell 2% in after-hours trading to $72.75 after the FAA announcement yesterday. The shares of GS Yuasa Corp, a Japanese firm that makes batteries for the Dreamliner, tumbled 4.7% in trading in Tokyo. The stock has dropped 18% since January 7 when one of its batteries exploded in a parked Japan Airlines 787 at Boston Logan International Airport - one of several recent mishaps that have plagued the new lightweight, fuel-efficient jetliner.

US analysts said the grounding would send jitters through investor circles, but was probably associated with Boeing's decision to build 50 planes before the 787 model entered service, rather than a more serious issue of plane design.

"Most likely it's a very big headache and they're being cautious, but there's still the possibility that it's much worse and much more expensive for Boeing," they said.

The 787, which has a list price of $207m, represents a leap in the way planes are designed and built, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays. Some have suggested Boeing's rush to get planes built after those delays resulted in the recent problems, a charge the company denies.