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Boeing has broken Dreamliners


 A line of 787 jets are parked Thursday at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. Federal officials are temporarily grounding Boeing's 787s until the risk of possible battery fires is addressed.
Elaine Thompson/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 1/18/2013

BY JOSHUA FREED

AP Business Writer

Boeing plans to keep building its flagship jetliner while engineers try to solve battery problems that have grounded most of the 787 fleet.

It's not clear how long the investigation--or the fix--will take. But it won't be cheap for Boeing or for the airlines that had sought the prestige of flying the world's most sophisticated passenger plane--a marvel of aviation technology that right now can't even leave the tarmac, let alone cross continents and oceans.

Boeing's newest jet was grounded worldwide Thursday after one suffered a battery fire and another had to make an emergency landing because pilots smelled something burning. Airlines and regulators canceled all Dreamliner flights.

The groundings were a sign of how seriously regulators take any threat of an in-flight fire. National Transportation Safety Board photos of the battery container from a Jan. 7 fire on a Japan Airlines plane showed a blue box with black smudges and blackened wiring and batteries inside.

LOT Polish Airlines suffered the highest-profile embarrassment of any of Boeing's customers late Wednesday, just as it was showing off new service between Warsaw and Chicago.

The plane's captain learned of the FAA grounding order while making the inaugural flight from Warsaw to Chicago. The airline canceled the return trip--and a ceremony at O'Hare Airport that was to include airline officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Passengers who were eager to ride the airline's first flight back to Warsaw had to look for a hotel room instead.

Bartek Pshyborvski was supposed to be on the canceled flight to Warsaw. Quoting from the sign behind the LOT ticket counter, he said: "It's funny to read 'First European airline to fly Boeing 787 Dreamliner.' Oops. Big oops."

The airline said Thursday that it may seek compensation from Boeing for the grounding of its two 787s.

Boeing currently builds five 787s per month. It hasn't delivered any since Jan. 3, before the plane started experiencing a spate of problems that also included fuel and oil leaks, a cracked cockpit window and a computer glitch that erroneously indicated a brake problem.

Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said no deliveries had been scheduled during that time. She declined to discuss planned deliveries.

Regardless of delivery schedules, it's cheaper for Boeing to build the planes and then go back and fix them than it is to shut down production.


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