A Japan Airlines (JAL) Boeing 787 Dreamliner remained grounded at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport yesterday, as regulators demanded checks to see if the aircraft was fit to fly, a day after white smoke vented from the plane and a battery cell showed signs of melting.
The incident comes a year after JAL and ANA Holdings grounded their Dreamliner fleets after separate issues with batteries overheating. All of Boeing Co’s 787s were then taken out of service for more than three months while the plane manufacturer sought a fix for the problem.
ANA yesterday said its 787s were operating normally.
“The incident only happened yesterday, so it’s difficult to say when checks, or any repairs would be complete,” an official from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau said.
The agency will oversee inspections of the power pack by battery maker GS Yuasa Corp, JAL and Boeing.
The latest incident with Boeing’s state-of-the-art plane, which is built with carbon-fiber composite materials and a powerful electrical system to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency, raises fresh concerns about the plane’s safety and reliability.
Boeing said it was “aware of the 787 issue that occurred Tuesday afternoon at Narita, which appears to have involved the venting of a single battery cell.”
Venting is the process of fumes and heat being channeled outside the battery casing and the aircraft when the battery overheats.
It said the issue took place during scheduled maintenance with no passengers on board.
“The improvements made to the 787 battery system last year appear to have worked as designed,” it added.
The issue of who will pay for any losses incurred by keeping the jet from flying will be determined after the plane is back in the air, a JAL spokesman said.
The Japan Transport Safety Board, which is probing the battery overheating on an ANA flight last year, will not directly inspect the latest damaged battery, but will gather information on it as it tries to determine the cause of the earlier incident, a spokeswoman for the agency said.
The US National Transportation Safety Board said it also was gathering information. The US Federal Aviation Administration, which certified Boeing’s revamped 787 battery system as safe last year, said it was working with the aircraft maker and regulators in Japan to investigate the battery malfunction.