News Column

Boeing Dreamliners Grounded as Authorities Probe Safety

Jan. 17, 2013

Boeing 787 Dreamliners were grounded in several countries on Thursday, a day after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was investigating battery problems that raised safety concerns.

The Polish carrier LOT said it was considering launching a claim for compensation against Boeing after it joined airlines in the United States, Japan, India, Qatar and Chile in grounding their Dreamliners following the US request to temporarily halt operations.

This represented the first time in 34 years that the FAA had issued such a directive.

"We are now paying the cost for the delay or cancellation as well as deploying substitute aircraft and are considering asking for compensation from Boeing," said LOT spokesman Marek Klucinski.

"It is not clear how long the technical review will take and when the Dreamliner will fly again," he said. LOT has grounded its two Dreamliners.

Safety concerns about the Boeing's long-haul 787 aircraft have mounted since an All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight made an unscheduled landing in Japan this week after a battery problem appeared on cockpit screens and the pilot reported an unusual smell.

Chicago-based Boeing has so far delivered 50 Dreamliners, half of them to airlines in Japan, where the government on Thursday ordered airlines to ground the planes.

The FAA said it would work with Boeing and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the US 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible. It said the battery problem carries a potential fire risk.

Eight companies - including LOT - fly the Dreamliner: Japan Airlines, ANA, Air India, United Airlines, Qatar Airways, Chile's LAN Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines. LOT is the only European airline currently flying the Dreamliner.

Air India grounded its six Boeing 787 Dreamliners on Thursday and officials said a decision to reverse the ban would be taken only after the FAA approves the plane's safety.

"Now how serious this problem is, how long it will take, we will know only in a couple of days," said Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh.

Air India spokesman G Prasada Rao said the airline had ordered 27 Dreamliners in 2006 and planned to take delivery of all aircraft by 2016. He said the carrier had made alternative arrangements to accommodate affected passengers.

Japan's government ordered airlines not to fly the Dreamliners until their safety had been assured.

There were similar reactions from other airlines.

"Qatar Airways will resume Boeing 787 operations when it is assured that this type of aircraft meets all aeronautical requirements as well as our criteria to guarantee the safety of our passengers and crew at all times," said the carrier's managing director, Akbar al-Bakir.

"LOT Polish Airlines currently has a fleet of 2 Boeing 787s, one of which is presently grounded in the US," said a spokesman for European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas announcing that the European Union also backed the FAA directive.

The Polish carrier was the first European airline to operate the Boeing 787s. Its first Dreamliner took off overnight into Thursday for a long-haul flight to Chicago, home to a large Polish-American community. Aviation authorities grounded it upon arrival.

The airline said on its Facebook page that it remained certain the aircraft is safe and added that a Boeing 767 would fly the trans-Atlantic route until technical checks are completed.

Boeing has so far received some 800 orders for the 200-million-dollar 787 Dreamliner. In Germany, Air Berlin has ordered 15 of the commercial planes and Tui Travel 13.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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