U.S. regulators plan to review the power system Boeing Co. created for its 787 Dreamliner after a fire on a Japan Airlines Co. jet this week followed several incidents last year, a person familiar with the matter said.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration plans to announce the review today, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t yet public. The 787’s design and manufacturing, which the FAA approved in 2011, will be part of the evaluation, the person said. The FAA didn’t immediately provide a comment.
“We actively work with the FAA daily, across all of our product lines,” Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman in Seattle, said in an e-mailed statement while declining to comment on communications with the agency. “We are absolutely confident in the reliability and performance of the 787.”
The review is in addition to a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board probe of the Jan. 7 fire that the agency said caused severe damage to the battery pack area of the 787 after passengers disembarked in Boston from a flight that began in Tokyo. A couple of the jets were grounded last month by a power fault, which Boeing said this week it had traced to flaws in power panels.
The Dreamliner conserves fuel by using five times more electricity than other similar jets and by saving weight with a fuselage and wings made from composite materials, not aluminum. Some existing FAA regulations didn’t cover the new technologies, so the plane was certified with multiple “special conditions.”
An agency review stops short of emergency actions such as mandatory fixes or a fleet grounding that the FAA has imposed after some aviation accidents. The NTSB classified the fire in Boston as an “incident,” not an accident.
“We are working with the FAA and our customers to ensure we thoroughly understand any introductory issues that arise,” Birtel said. “While we take each issue seriously, nothing we’ve seen in service causes us to doubt the capabilities of the airplane.”
Boeing fell 0.4 percent to $76.75 at 7:06 p.m. in New York after regular trading. The shares had previously dropped 2 percent to $76.13 since Jan. 4, the last trading day before the Boston fire.
The 787 has been marketed by Chicago-based Boeing as a way to open new routes between far-flung cities, such as Tokyo and New York, that don’t need the capacity of wide-bodies such as the 777 and the 747.
The FAA has granted the plane permission to fly up to 180 minutes away from landing strips, and Boeing said this week it’s in final talks to extend that to 330 minutes, which increases the importance of reliability.
The Dreamliner’s use of lithium-ion batteries sets it apart from other jetliners. Boeing got regulators’ permission to use the batteries in the 787 in 2007, three years after passenger planes were barred from carrying non-rechargeable types as cargo.
Only those batteries can provide a high-energy start and be recharged quickly to meet the jet’s needs, Mike Sinnett, the chief engineer for the Dreamliner, said this week. The battery has “robust protection” against charging and discharging too quickly, since both are dangerous, he said.
All new jets have introductory pains the first year or two, Sinnett said. The 787’s performance since entering service in 2011 hasn’t been any worse than that of the 777, which made its commercial debut in 1995 and is one of Boeing’s most popular models, and has been better than other wide-body jets, he said.
All Nippon Airways Co., the first to start commercial operations with the Dreamliner, is replacing a cockpit window on a 787 that cracked during a flight between Tokyo and Matsuyama in western Japan, spokeswoman Megumi Tezuka said today.
The airline, the biggest operator of the Dreamliner, had two previous cases of window cracks on the jet, Tezuka said.
India’s government, owner of the carrier Air India Ltd., is concerned about the problems reported elsewhere, an aviation ministry official said today, asking not to be identified citing government rules. The nation’s aviation regulator is awaiting the National Transportation Safety Board report on the aircraft.
Air India received its sixth Dreamliner on Jan. 7.
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