Following All Nippon Airways decision to ground its fleet of Boeing 787s Dreamliners, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that all 787s in the US are to be grounded pending an investigation into the recent lithium-ion battery failures that have caused fires in Boston and Japan. Just yesterday, a 787 had to make an emergency landing in Japan after a fire started on the aircraft and sent smoke into the cabin.
The 787 is to be grounded until operators are able to prove to the FAA that the batteries on the plane are safe and will not cause any future fires. On January 7th, a fire in a 787 at Boston's Logan Airport kept the plane from taking off. Fortunately, the fires on Boston and Japan did not cause any serious issues.
Today's announcement follow's last week's news that the FAA has launched a full-scale investigation into the Dreamliner's design, manufacture, and assembly. The investigation is expected to look at a variety of problems the 787 has faced since its first flight last year, including cracks in the cockpit window, oil leaks in the engines, various computer related issues, and of course, the battery-related fires.
Currently, there are only six 787s in active use in the US, and all of them are operated by United Airlines. In addition to two airlines in Japan, there are five other airlines across the world that have the 787 in their fleets. The FAA says that it has alerted them to the grounding notice, and it is likely that other civil authorities will make similar announcements following the FAA's decision.
The FAA's full statement on the matter is below:
As a result of an in-flight, Boeing 787 battery incident earlier today in Japan, the FAA will issue an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) to address a potential battery fire risk in the 787 and require operators to temporarily cease operations. Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered, Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the batteries are safe.
The FAA will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible.The in-flight Japanese battery incident followed an earlier 787 battery incident that occurred on the ground in Boston on January 7, 2013. The AD 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.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 also will 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.
United Airlines is currently the only U.S. airline operating the 787, with six airplanes in service. 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.
We have reached out to Boeing for a comment on the FAA's announcement and will update this post if we hear back.
Update: The FAA has officially issued the emergency airworthiness directive. You can read it right here (PDF).
Update 2: Air India has also grounded its fleet of six 787 aircraft while it awaits an investigation by Indian regulators.
Update 3: Boeing has provided this statement from CEO Jim McNerney:
The 787 and our commitment to safety
I'm confident in the 787 because I'm confident in Boeing people.
This week the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and international regulatory agencies temporarily suspended 787 commercial flights in response to two widely reported in-service incidents with the airplane's batteries that have called into question the safety of the 787 fleet.
As everyone inside the company knows, nothing is more important to us than the safety of the passengers, pilots and crew members who fly aboard Boeing commercial and military aircraft. We also understand the importance of maintaining the confidence of customers and the flying public in the safety of the overall global air transportation system and the Boeing products that operate within it.
We have high confidence in the safety of the 787 and stand squarely behind its integrity as the newest addition to our product family. We are working around the clock to support the FAA, our customers, and others in the investigations, and we've committed to make available all Boeing resources to help find answers as quickly as possible. In short, in the days ahead, we will take the steps necessary to assure our customers and their passengers of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service.
Despite the negative news attention over the past several days, I remain tremendously proud of employees across the company for the decade of effort that has gone into designing, developing, building, and delivering the most innovative commercial airplane ever imagined. Since entering service 15 months ago, the 787 fleet has completed 18,000 flights and 50,000 flight hours with eight airlines, carrying more than 1,000,000 passengers safely to destinations around the world. While the 787's dispatch reliability rate is on par with the best-in-class introduction of the 777, we will not be satisfied until the 787 meets the even higher standard of performance we set for it and promised to our customers.
My confidence in the future of the 787 is underpinned by my trust and confidence in you, the men and women of Boeing who have worked so hard, for so long, to deliver this game-changing new airplane to the world's airlines. Time and again, you have risen to both the challenges inherent to fundamental innovation, and the day-to-day problem-solving that is part of every new product introduction.
As we learn more about the specific events in question and the plan to return to flight, we will be sure to pass them along to you. Until then, keep up the great work on behalf of our customers and Boeing.