For Boeing’s New Dreamliner, Glitches Aplenty

Posted January 9th, 2013 at 3:05 pm (UTC-5)
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For the third day in a row, there are new problems in the operation of the world's latest long-range jet aircraft, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

Japan's All Nippon Airways canceled a Dreamliner flight Wednesday from the western Yamaguchi prefecture to Tokyo because of a brake problem. The airline said an error message was displayed in the plane's cockpit related to the brake system.

That followed two mishaps earlier in the week at Boston's Logan International Airport in the United States. On Monday, a parked 787 operated by Japan Airlines caught fire when a battery in a power system exploded. Then, on Tuesday, a second Japan Airlines Dreamliner leaked fuel as it was preparing for takeoff and had to be towed back to a gate.

Despite the mishaps, U.S.-based Boeing said it has “extreme confidence” in the aircraft.

Boeing is the world's second largest aircraft manufacturer and it has high hopes for the Dreamliner. The aircraft carries up to 290 passengers and is the first major airliner to be built mostly from composite materials rather than metal. It consumes 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized aircraft.

But this week's glitches follow a pattern of problems for the $207 million aircraft. The first deliveries of the aircraft to airlines were delayed repeatedly in recent years by production problems. Major assembly began in mid-2006, but the first aircraft was not delivered until late 2011. Then the plane encountered various mechanical breakdowns last month, including several electrical problems.

After Monday's battery explosion, Boeing said it is working with U.S. transportation safety officials to investigate the incident, but that it did not believe it was related to the December electrical problems found elsewhere in the aircraft.

One All Nippon Dreamliner pilot, Hideaki Hayakawa, is enthusiastic about the plane's future in air transportation.

“In the future, I feel this plane has the potential to change the entire airline business.''

Japanese airlines said they do not plan to cancel any of their orders for the plane as the result of this week's mishaps. Boeing has sold 848 Dreamliners.