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Boeing’s Dreamliner under FAA review after more problems

FILE - In this Jan. 27 2012 file phoBoeing's newest aircraft Boeing 787 sits tarmac Huntsville International Airport after 3600-mile

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2012, file photo, Boeing's newest aircraft, the Boeing 787, sits on the tarmac at Huntsville International Airport after a 3600-mile flight from Dublin, in Huntsville, Ala. Boeing executives insisted Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, that its 787 Dreamliner is safe, and investors rallied behind the company. But federal investigators are probing a Monday, Jan 7, 2013 fire aboard an empty 787 in Boston, the latest glitch for a high-profile jet that has a lot riding on it, both for Boeing and its airline customers. (AP Photo/The Huntsville Times, Eric Schultz, File)

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Updated: February 13, 2013 6:07AM

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is launching a comprehensive review of the critical systems of Boeing’s 787, the aircraft maker’s newest and most technologically advanced plane, after a fire and a fuel leak earlier this week, the agency said Friday.

The review will include the design, manufacture and assembly of those systems, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a news conference that included FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Huerta said he’s confident the plane is safe. There is nothing in the data the agency has seen to suggest the plane isn’t safe, he said.

The 787, which Boeing calls the “Dreamliner,” relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It’s also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries. The plane is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.

Boeing Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney said in a statement, Boeing stands “100 percent behind the integrity of the 787 and the rigorous process that led to its successful certification and entry into service. We look forward to participating in the joint review with the FAA, and we believe it will underscore our confidence, and the confidence of our customers and the traveling public, in the reliability, safety and performance of the innovative, new 787 Dreamliner.”

The news sent the company’s stock down more than 3 percent in afternoon trading Friday.

Among misshaps this week with the 787, a fire ignited Monday in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787 empty of passengers as the plane sat on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan International Airport. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze. A day later, a fuel leak delayed a flight from Boston to Tokyo of another Japan Airlines 787.

On Friday, Japan’s All Nippon Airways reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft. ANA spokeswoman Ayumi Kunimatsu said a very small amount of oil was discovered leaking from the left engine of a 787 flight from southern Japan’s Miyazaki airport to Tokyo.

The jet returned to Miyazaki, but after checks found no safety risk, it flew to Tokyo. ANA said on another flight, to Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, glass in a cockpit window cracked and the aircraft was grounded for repairs.

There also were problems reported with 787s in December. A United Airlines 787 flight flying from Houston to Newark, N.J., had to divert to New Orleans because of an electrical problem with a power distribution panel, and Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787s because of the same issue.

Boeing has said in-service performance of the 787 is on par with the industry’s best-ever introduction into service, the Boeing 777, with the 787’s fleet wide dispatch reliability well above 90 percent. The 777 is now one of Boeing’s top sellers and is well liked by airlines.

“While the 787’s reliability is on par with the best in class, we have experienced in-service issues in recent months and we are never satisfied while there is room for improvement,” the company said in a statement Friday. “We welcome the opportunity to conduct this joint review.

“Just as we are confident in the airplane, we are equally confident in the regulatory process that has been applied to the 787 since its design inception. With this airplane, the FAA conducted its most robust certification process ever. We expect that this review will complement that effort.”

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