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U.S., European regulators ground 787

A Boeing Dreamliner landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport in March. (Photo/Brian Losito/Air Canada)
A Boeing Dreamliner landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport in March. (Photo/Brian Losito/Air Canada)
By Matt Tomsic
Published Jan. 17, 2013

European and American aviation regulators have grounded the Boeing 787 Dreamliner because of concerns over fires involving the airplane’s lithium batteries.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued its airworthiness directive Wednesday, and the European Aviation Safety Agency followed suit today.

Two recent incidents involving the 787’s lithium battery prompted the emergency directive.

On Wednesday, All Nippon Airways grounded its 787 fleet following an emergency landing in Japan of one of its Dreamliners, canceling 35 flights and using other jets for another 31 flights.

Before the emergency landing, the ANA flight crew received several messages about the plane’s battery and other systems, and crew members reported an odor in the cockpit and cabin, according to initial reports from the National Transportation Safety Board, which sent an investigator to Japan. After the airplane landed, crew and passengers evacuated down its emergency slides.

The second incident happened Jan. 7 aboard a Japan Airlines 787 at Logan International Airport in Boston.

After passengers and crew disembarked, maintenance and cleaning personnel found smoke in the cabin and called firefighters, who put out the fire about 40 minutes after arriving on scene. One firefighter had minor injuries, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which sent investigators to Boston.

Boeing Co. employees in Washington state assembled both 787s involved.

In its airworthiness directive, the FAA said the cause of the failures is being investigated.

“These conditions, if not corrected, could result in damage to critical systems and structures and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment,” according to the directive. “We evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition is likely to exist or develop in other parts of the same type design.”

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney released a statement after the FAA issued the directive, saying passenger and crew safety is the company’s priority.

“Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible,” he said. “The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities. We are confident the 787 is safe, and we stand behind its overall integrity. We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787’s safety and to return the airplanes to service.”

Reach Matt Tomsic at 843-849-3144.

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