U.S. federal agency has asked its airlines to ground the Boeing 787, popularly known as the Dreamliner, due to safety hazard.
The directive to “temporarily cease operations” comes after the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) conducted an investigation of an in-flight Boeing 787 battery incident in Japan on Wednesday, which posed a question on a potential battery fire risk in the 787.
“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 said in a statement on Wednesday.
The United Airlines, which is currently the only American airlines operating the 787, with six airplanes in service, announced to immediately suspend the services of its Dreamliners.
Early this month United Airlines has introduced daily nonstop 787 Dreamliner service between Los Angeles and Tokyo.
There was no immediate reaction from Air India, which is among the few international airlines in Asia to boast of the Dreamliners.
“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,” the U.S. federal body said.
FAA said the in-flight Japanese battery incident followed an earlier 787 battery incident that occurred on the ground in Boston on January 7, 2013.
The airworthiness directive (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 aeroplanes. 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,” it said.
On January 11, 2013, 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, it said.
Meanwhile, Boeing chairman, president and CEO Jim McNerney, has exuded confidence that the 787 is safe and it will stand behind its overall integrity.
“We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the travelling public of the 787’s safety and to return the airplanes to service,” he said in a statement.
“The safety of passengers and crew members who fly aboard Boeing airplanes is our highest priority. Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible.
“The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities. We will make available the entire resources of The Boeing Company to assist,” Mr. McNerney said.
“Boeing deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on the operating schedules of our customers and the inconvenience to them and their passengers,” he added.