It’s going from bad to worse as far as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft is concerned. Following an emergency landing by one of the planes in Japan Wednesday morning, the country’s two main airlines have decided to ground their respective 787 fleets for checks.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) – the first airline to take delivery of the Dreamliner plane in 2011 – and Japan Airlines (JAL) said the Dreamliner aircraft would be grounded until further notice. ANA operates seventeen 787 planes while JAL has seven.
The emergency landing involved an ANA flight from Yamaguchi Ube airport in western Japan. The plane, with 129 passengers and 8 crew on board, was forced to land shortly after take-off when a smoke alarm began sounding in the cockpit. It’s understood that while no smoke was actually seen on the aircraft, an unusual odor was detected by the pilots. All passengers and crew evacuated from the aircraft safely, an ANA official said.
The Dreamliner, the most technologically-advanced plane Boeing has ever built, has been hit by a succession of problems in the past week. A brake problem forced the cancelation of a flight in Japan last Wednesday, while fuel leaks and an electrical fire on 787s at Boston Logan International Airport also raised concerns about the new aircraft.
But the problems for the 787 go back much further. The revolutionary plane, which features super-efficient engines and a lightweight yet strong carbon fiber frame, arrived three years late to its first customer, ANA, after a slew of production and design issues.
Aviation expert Richard Aboulafia – speaking to the BBC before Wednesday’s incident – described the level of problems with the new aircraft as “unprecedented”.
“There’s a lot of new technology on this plane,” Aboulafia said. “It’s a very innovative aircraft and the potential for big and small glitches has been magnified hugely as a result of this innovation.”
However, Mike Sinnett, chief engineer at Boeing, insisted last week that the plane was “100 percent safe to fly,” adding that its problem rates are at about the same level as its successful 777 aircraft when that was introduced into commercial service in 1995.
Following Wednesday’s emergency landing in Japan, Boeing issued a short statement via Twitter. “We’re aware of the ANA 787 diversion in Japan. We will be working with ANA and the authorities to determine what happened and why,” the company said.