Boeing 787 Crisis Widens, as Global Regulators Ground Dreamliner

Posted January 17th, 2013 at 12:55 am (UTC-5)
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Aviation authorities around the world are grounding the Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet following a safety warning issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Airlines in Chile, India and Europe are the latest to stop flying the jet, which already has been grounded in the U.S. and Japan. As of early Thursday, 39 of the 50 Dreamliners in operation around the world had been suspended.

The FAA, which sets the standard for global aviation regulators, on Wednesday warned that the next generation plane should not fly until the risk of battery fires is addressed.

The move came one day after one of the twin-engine, wide-bodied planes was forced to make an emergency landing in Japan when a cockpit warning indicated a battery malfunction and passengers smelled something burning.

Japan's two biggest airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, grounded all their Dreamliners – 24 aircraft – after the incident. The crisis over the trouble-plagued plane widened following the FAA warning.

Late Wednesday, Chile's LAN announced it would ground its three 787s, while India's aviation agency ordered Air India to do the same with its fleet of six Dreamliners. The European Aviation Safety Agency also said it would follow the U.S. grounding order.

Even before Wednesday's developments, recent problems with the 787 had prompted U.S. regulators to launch a safety review of the aircraft. A battery problem was believed to be the cause of a small fire that broke out aboard an empty 787 as it was being serviced on the ground in Boston. Other incidents have involved leaking fuel, a cracked windshield and brake problems.

Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney said in a statement late Wednesday that the U.S.-based company stands behind the plane's “overall integrity,” and “deeply regrets” the impact the situation is having on passengers.

The company's stock price fell 2 percent in trading after U.S. markets formally closed Wednesday.

Boeing has sold or has commitments to build more than 800 of the planes for airlines around the world. Boeing says the 787's revolutionary design will save air carriers money by using less fuel.