Update: All Boeing 787 Dreamliners have been grounded until a thorough investigation can be completed. The grounding was ordered by the FAA, Japanese and European aviation authorities. Investigations are ongoing, focussing on the plane’s lithium-ion batteries. There appears to be an issue with the batteries leaking that can potentially cause fires as in one such case on an ANA flight which made an emergency landing. No one knows exactly how long the fifty plus 787 aircrafts will be grounded but according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the troubled Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” wouldn’t fly again, until they were, “1,000 percent sure” it was safe.
The new, mostly composite 787 Dreamliner has had a tough couple of weeks; a fuel leak, electrical fires and cracks in the windshield. Therefore, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will review the design and manufacture of the aircraft. Boeing believes in its design as does the FAA, which put these planes through the rigors of testing and found the planes to be safe. But following these incidents a review of the plane is obviously prudent. At a news conference, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “we believe this is a safe aircraft”. Although the entire aircraft will be checked, most of the focus will be on its electrical components. Boeing, the builder of the 787 for its part said, the FAA review of the Dreamliner in no way diminished its confidence in the air worthiness of the plane. Boeing’s head of commercial airplanes, Ray Conner said that since this is the first entirely new aircraft to enter service in quite some time, they fully expected to have some issues as all new airliners do but he commented, it in no way, “alters our complete confidence in the 787.” The Airbus A380 for example, when first put in to service, experienced problems with the engines and in one case, debris fell from an engine on to homes and a shopping mall. That doesn’t make the flying public feel any more comfortable because no one wants to serve as guinea pig to the airline industry but these series of issues will be pinpointed and resolved ASAP. The 787 entered service in late 2011 after an almost three-year delay. It’s important to note that this aircraft is the first of its kind and state of the art. It’s built primarily of composite materials thereby making it lighter and more fuel-efficient than traditional aircraft. The ventilation system on the plane improves air quality as compared to traditional aircraft that simply recycle the air. Lighting is improved and seating is more comfortable. The windows are larger and darken at the press of a button, doing away with plastic sliding shades. There’s little doubt in anyone’s mind that when the inspections are completed, and the plane is certified safe to fly, the 787 will be a commercial success. To date, 900 are on order at a cost of over $200 million per aircraft.