The federal government grounded Boeing’s newest and most technologically advanced jetliner Wednesday, declaring that the 787 cannot fly again until the risk of battery fires is addressed.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it would work with Boeing and U.S. airlines to develop a plan to allow the Dreamliner to “resume operations as quickly and safely as possible.” United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier with 787s. It has six.
The FAA decision was the latest setback for a plane that was supposed to set a new standard for jet travel but has been beset by one mishap after another.
For the second time in two weeks, a smoking or burning battery has been tied to an emergency aboard a 787. Almost half of the 787s that have been delivered have been grounded for safety checks. And the latest incident raises the risk that the jet’s electrical problems are more dangerous than previously thought.
So far, no one has suggested that the plane’s fundamental design can’t be fixed. But it’s unclear how much will need to be changed.
The remedy could range from relatively quick-and-easy improvements to more-extensive changes that could delay deliveries just as Boeing is trying to speed production up from five planes per month to 10.
On Wednesday, Japan’s All Nippon Airways said pilots smelled something burning and received a cockpit message warning of battery problems while flying from Yamaguchi Ube airport in western Japan to Tokyo.
They made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan, and passengers evacuated using inflatable slides.
An inspection found that a flammable liquid had leaked from the main lithium- ion battery, which is below and slightly behind the cockpit. Investigators found burn marks around the damage.