ANA cancels another 681 flights over Boeing woes

NO-FLY::The US National Transportation Safety Board said it was weeks away from knowing what caused the batteries of a Dreamliner plane to catch fire on Jan. 7

AFP, TOKYO and Washington

Fri, Feb 08, 2013 - Page 15

Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) yesterday said it would cancel 681 flights next month, bringing the number of flights scrapped due to the Boeing Dreamliner’s grounding last month to nearly 1,900.

ANA said it would cancel 461 domestic flights and 220 international flights next month, including flights bound for Seoul and Seattle. Flight cancelations since the grounding now stand at 1,887 and affect more than 126,000 passengers, the carrier said.

ANA is the biggest Dreamliner customer with 17 of the world’s 50 operational Boeing 787s.

The next-generation aircraft has suffered a series of glitches since last month, prompting a global alert from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that led to the worldwide grounding of all operational 787s.

The risk of fire from overheating powerpacks emerged as a major concern after pilots were forced to land a domestic ANA flight on Jan. 16 due to smoke possibly linked to the lithium-ion battery.

Multiple probes into the fuel-efficient plane’s battery system have so far proved inconclusive.

On Wednesday, the US National Transportation Safety Board said it was weeks away from knowing what caused a 787 battery to catch fire on Jan. 7.

“We’re probably weeks away from being able to tell people what happened and what needs to be changed,” board chairperson Deborah Hersman said at a news conference.

Hersman said that investigators were “proceeding with a lot of care” in probing the cause of a Jan. 7 lithium-ion battery fire on a Japan Airlines (JAL) 787 that occurred as the unoccupied plane sat on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan airport.

Hersman said the most concerning issues uncovered in the probe so far were short circuits and thermal runaway, a chemical reaction that produces uncontrollably rising temperatures.

“These factors are not what we expected to see in a brand-new battery,” she said.

Meanwhile, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner was to fly for the first time in three weeks in a so-called ferry flight after the company won permission on Wednesday from US regulators.

In the special one-time flight, the plane — with no passengers and just the minimum crew needed to fly it — was to travel yesterday from Forth Worth, Texas, where it was being painted, back to Boeing’s assembly plant in Everett in the northwestern state of Washington.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that before the ferry flight, the crew must carry out a number of inspections to be sure the batteries and cables show no signs of damage.

“The pre-flight checklist will include a mandatory check for specific status messages that could indicate possible battery problems,” the FAA said.

“While airborne, the crew must continuously monitor the flight computer for battery related messages, and land immediately if one occurs,” it said.