January 16, 2013

Grounding of 787s intensifies scrutiny of batteries

Joshua Freed / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Passengers leave an All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in Takamatsu, Japan, on Wednesday.

AP / Kyodo News

The earliest manufactured jets of any new aircraft usually have problems and airlines run higher risks in flying them first, said Brendan Sobie, Singapore-based chief analyst at CAPA-Center for Aviation. Since about half the 787 fleet is in Japan, more problems are cropping up there.

GS Yuasa Corp., the Japanese company that supplies all the lithium ion batteries for the 787, had no comment as the investigation was still ongoing. Thales, which makes the battery charging system, had no immediate comment.

Boeing has said that various technical problems are to be expected in the early days of any aircraft model.

"Boeing is aware of the diversion of a 787 operated by ANA to Takamatsu in western Japan. We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies," Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.

United frequent flier Josh Feller said he changed his plans to fly a United 787 from Los Angeles International to Houston next month because of the 787's troubles.

"I've been following the 787 news closely and the latest incident finally spooked me into changing my flight," he said by e-mail. "It's an unnecessary risk and since I was going out of my way to fly the plane in the first place, decided to change flights." He also wanted to avoid any disruptions if United eventually grounds the 787.

Aviation safety expert John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member, said the ANA pilot made the right decision.

"They were being very prudent in making the emergency landing even though there's been no information released so far that indicates any of these issues are related," he said.

But much remains uncertain about the problems being experienced by the 787, said Masaharu Hirokane, analyst at Nomura Securities Co. in Tokyo.

"You need to ensure safety 100 percent, and then you also have to get people to feel that the jet is 100 percent safe," Hirokane said.

 

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