More problems plague Dreamliners in Japan

Reuters, TOKYO and Washington

Sat, Jan 12, 2013 - Page 15

Boeing Co’s 787 Dreamliner jet suffered a cracked cockpit window and an oil leak on separate flights in Japan yesterday — the latest in a series of incidents to test confidence in the sophisticated new aircraft.

All Nippon Airways Co (ANA) said a domestic flight from Tokyo landed safely at Matsuyama Airport in western Japan after a crack developed on the cockpit windscreen, and the plane’s return to Tokyo was canceled.

The same airline later said oil was found leaking from an engine of a 787 Dreamliner after the plane landed at Miyazaki Airport in southern Japan. An airline spokeswoman said that return flight to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda airport) was also canceled while the leak was investigated. No one was injured in either incident.

The Dreamliner, the world’s first carbon-composite airliner, which has a list price of US$207 million, has been beset by problems this week.

US transportation officials were scheduled hold a press conference in Washington yesterday morning to discuss issues related to recent electrical problems on the new plane, one person familiar with the matter said.

Bloomberg News said the US Federal Aviation Administration would announce a review into the jet’s power system at that news conference. US regulators have raised questions about the plane’s reliability on long transocean routes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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.

Earlier this week, a battery fire caused damage to an empty 787 jet operated by Japan Airlines while it was on the ground at Boston Logan International Airport. The next day, another JAL 787 spilled 151 liters of fuel onto the taxiway at the same airport after a problem that caused a valve to open, forcing the plane to delay its departure. On Wednesday, ANA cancelled a domestic Dreamliner flight due to a brake-control computer glitch.

Boeing’s top Dreamliner engineer, Mike Sinnett, was rolled out midweek to defend the 787, saying the plane’s problem rates were no higher than with Boeing’s successful 777 jet.

The latest incidents came just hours before ANA was due to launch its maiden service between Tokyo and San Jose, California, with the Dreamliner. That flight was due to leave Tokyo and then return to Japan after about a 90-minute turnaround in the US.

ANA and JAL together fly 24 of the 49 Dreamliners delivered to the end of last month.