By Gwyn Topham, The Guardian
Full review planned by the Federal Aviation Administration of the 787’s design and manufacture after two more safety glitches were reported
Boeing’s troubled 787 Dreamliner is to face a full review of its design and manufacture by the US government after two more safety glitches were reported – making five incidents in five days for the model that promised to revolutionise flying.
The US transportation secretary Ray LaHood will shortly announce a comprehensive review of the 787’s critical systems by the Federal Aviation Administration, including the design, manufacture and assembly.
Earlier, pilots on an All Nippon Airways domestic flight in Japan reported a crack developing in the cockpit windscreen before landing safely, while oil was found leaking from the engine of another of the airline’s Dreamliners.
A string of problems this week has threatened to erode confidence in the mould-breaking aircraft, a carbon-composite plane that is at the forefront of the aviation industry’s claims for a greener, quieter future.
Boeing insists there is no cause for concern. But this week at Boston airport alone, a battery started a fire on one empty Japan Airlines 787, while another leaked 40 gallons of fuel on to the taxiway, delaying its takeoff. Another ANA internal Dreamliner flight was cancelled on Wednesday due to a brake-control computer glitch.
The 787 Dreamliner made its first commercial flight in late 2011, after a series of production delays put deliveries more than three years behind schedule. By the end of last year, Boeing had sold 848 Dreamliners, and delivered 49.
A Boeing spokesman said: “We actively work with the FAA daily, across all of our product lines. We do not publicly comment on the nature and content of those communications.
“We are absolutely confident in the reliability and performance of the 787. We are working with the FAA and our customers to ensure we thoroughly understand any introductory issues that arise. While we take each issue seriously, nothing we’ve seen in service causes us to doubt the capabilities of the airplane.”
British Airways will be operating Dreamliners later in 2013, with Virgin and Thomson also awaiting deliveries, while Qatar Airways last month became the first airline to operate regular services to and from Heathrow with the 787. The aircraft, with a list price of $217m (£134m), has attracted airlines mainly because of its leap in fuel economy, as well as a range that makes emerging destinations possible with fewer passengers. But the model’s promise of 40% reduction in noise is also a key factor in winning over the opposition to expansion of airports around London.