FAA Grounds all 787s – Breaking News

by Adam

The FAA has now joined the party and is temporarily grounding all 787s operated by US carriers until further notice (which includes only United and their six Dreamliners). Once an airline can demonstrate that the lithium batteries used on the 787s are safe, the fleet can return the skies. The WSJ is reporting that foreign carriers will likely comply with the order as well and that FAA officials are urging other regulatory bodies to take similar action. This morning ANA and JAL grounded their entire 787 fleet, other 787 operators include Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, LAN, LOT, and Qatar.  From the FAA:

As a result of an in-flight, Boeing 787 battery incident earlier today in Japan, the FAA will issue an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) to address a potential battery fire risk in the 787 and require operators to temporarily cease operations.  Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered, Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the batteries are safe.    

The FAA will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible.

The in-flight Japanese battery incident followed an earlier 787 battery incident that occurred on the ground in Boston on January 7, 2013. The AD is prompted by this second incident involving a lithium ion battery.  The battery failures resulted in release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage, and smoke on two Model 787 airplanes.  The root cause of these failures is currently under investigation.  These conditions, if not corrected, could result in damage to critical systems and structures, and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment.

Last Friday, the FAA announced a comprehensive review of the 787’s critical systems with the possibility of further action pending new data and information.  In addition to the continuing review of the aircraft’s design, manufacture and assembly, the agency also will validate that 787 batteries and the battery system on the aircraft are in compliance with the special condition the agency issued as part of the aircraft’s certification.

United Airlines is currently the only U.S. airline operating the 787, with six airplanes in service. When the FAA issues an airworthiness directive, it also alerts the international aviation community to the action so other civil aviation authorities can take parallel action to cover the fleets operating in their own countries.

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