Boeing 787 Dreamliner troubles build
BY FRANCINE KNOWLES Business Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org January 8, 2013 12:48PM
A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet aircraft is surrounded by emergency vehicles while parked at a terminal E gate at Logan International Airport in Boston as a fire chief looks into the cargo hold Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. A small electrical fire filled the cabin of the JAL aircraft with smoke Monday morning about 15 minutes after it landed in Boston. | Stephan Savoia~AP
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:56PM
Problems with Boeing’s troubled Dreamliner continued to mount this week as federal safety inspectors heightened their scrutiny the day after a 787 caught fire.
Meanwhile, a report said wiring problems were found when United inspected its jets as a precaution, and another 787 aborted a takeoff because of a fuel leak.
Then on Wednesday, an All Nippon Airways flight had to be canceled because of a brake problem, an airline spokesman told Reuters.
The problems worried investors, raised concern among some airplane industry experts and prompted a downgrade of the Chicago-based company’s stock.
Boeing Co. confirmed that a fire on one of its new 787s on Monday appeared to have started in a battery.
The National Transportation Safety Board has three investigators examining the Japan Airlines plane that caught fire at Boston’s Logan International Airport and said it has formed investigative groups to look at the 787’s electrical system.
The NTSB described the jet’s battery damage as “severe.” Fire officials said it involved one of the plane’s lithium ion batteries. The 787 is Boeing’s first plane to use those batteries. In 2007, federal officials issued special rules for them because of concerns about the risk of fire.
Though the fire happened on the ground with no passengers on board, the matter is being scrutinized because in-flight fires can be catastrophic.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed source, reported Tuesday that United Airlines found a wiring problem on one of its 787s, an issue that affects the same electrical system that caused the fire.
United Airlines said it checked its six 787s overnight, but it would not say what the inspections found. A representative said no jets were grounded because of the inspections.
On Tuesday, a fuel leak forced a Japan Airlines Dreamliner 787 to abort its takeoff and return to the gate at Logan. The NTSB said it is not investigating the fuel leak.
Boeing says the fire appeared to be unrelated to previous electrical problems on the next-generation 787.
Boeing shares have fallen 4.6 percent since the fire was reported, wiping out almost $2.7 billion of the company’s value. On Tuesday, they fell $2, or 2.6 percent, to close at $74.13.
The 787 Dreamliner, Boeing’s newest plane, had been plagued with production delays. In November 2010, a test flight had to make an emergency landing after an in-flight electrical fire.
Last month, a United Airlines 787 flying from Houston to Newark, N.J., diverted 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.
The problems collectively are a blow to the plane’s image, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of Teal Group Corp., which does research and analysis on the aerospace and defense industry.
“This is going to be tough to explain to people,” he said. “It will take some serious image repair work. There are a lot of new technologies imbedded in this jet, far more than any other aircraft.”
BB&T Capital Markets downgraded Boeing’s stock to “Hold” from “Buy” after the fire.
“Electrical problems with new aircraft are to be expected,” BB&T Capital Markets analyst F. Carter Leake said in a research note. “Problems that result in fires or in-flight diversions are not.”
But Morningstar Inc. analyst Neal Dihora maintains that the 787 problems are small issues and part and parcel of the launching of a new aircraft.
Regarding Monday’s fire, Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that “nothing that we’ve seen in this case indicates a relationship to any previous 787 power system events, which involved power panel faults elsewhere in the aft electrical equipment bay. Information about the prior events has been shared with the NTSB, and they are aware of the details.”