Japan’s transport minister said Tuesday officials had launched a probe of Boeing’s Dreamliner after a series of problems with the high-tech aircraft left travellers “enormously worried”.
The ministry said late Monday it had chosen a team of experts to examine a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines (JAL) which suffered two fuel leaks in less than a week.
An unusually high number of safety incidents are the latest problem to dog the aircraft, after production glitches delayed delivery of the first plane to All Nippon Airways (ANA) by three years.
JAL and rival ANA, Japan’s two biggest airlines, are among Boeing’s important clients for the Dreamliner with about 45 orders combined, worth billions of dollars.
Both have reported a string of problems with the Dreamliner in the past week, including a fire on a JAL flight after it landed in Boston, the fuel leaks, and a cracked cockpit windshield that grounded one flight in Japan.
The Japanese probe comes after US regulators on Friday announced an in-depth safety review of the plane.
“I think the Japanese people have become enormously worried after hearing almost every day” about problems with the Dreamliner, Transport Minister Akihiro Ota told a regular news briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“It is important for us as the transport ministry to take a proactive approach and get a full grasp of the issue in order to provide a sense of safety and comfort to the public,” he added.
The Dreamliner has been lauded by Boeing for a high-tech composite fibre body that reduces weight and improves fuel efficiency.
In July, test engine trouble was the subject of a probe by the US National Transportation Safety Board. The same month ANA said it was grounding five Dreamliners for repairs because of a defect in the Rolls-Royce engine.
In February, Boeing said about 55 Dreamliners were at risk of developing a fuselage problem.
Dow Jones Newswires reported that electrical problems prompted an emergency landing in New Orleans by a United Continental Dreamliner flight recently.
Undeterred, ANA said in September it was ordering 11 more 787s in a deal with a list price of around $2.68 billion that will eventually take its fleet of Dreamliners to 66.
ANA shares rose 0.54 percent to 185 yen in Tokyo while Japan Airlines was down 0.68 percent at 3,610 yen.