Aviation News

January 16, 2013

FAA Orders Airlines To Stop Flying Boeing 787 [UPDATED]

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United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (Photo by Kevin Koske)

The FAA will soon order US airlines to temporarily stop flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner due to concerns about the fire potential of the plane’s batteries.

Officials cited the second serious failure of the plane’s lithium-ion batteries in less than two weeks as the reason for the action. The grounding was ordered less than 24 hours after a battery warning and “unusual odor” forced the emergency landing of an ANA 787 in Japan, which itself came just nine days after a battery caught fire on a Japan Airlines 787 caught fire in Boston. Those carriers, whose Dreamliners account for roughly half of the world’s entire 787 fleet, had grounded their aircraft earlier in the day Wednesday.

While no injuries occurred in either incident, the FAA said the failures had the potential to cause a fire and/or damage critical systems.

As United Airlines is the sole US carrier to operate the 787 Dreamliner, only it would be directly affected by the FAA action.

However, it is likely aviation authorities in other countries generally follow the FAA’s lead in regard to safety concerns on aircraft that the FAA originally certified, as in the case of the 787.

About 50 Dreamliners have been delivered to eight carriers based in seven countries around the world: United States (United Airlines), Japan (ANA and Japan Airlines), Qatar (Qatar Airways), Poland (LOT Polish Airlines), Chile (LAN Airlines), Ethiopia (Ethiopian Airlines) and India (Air India).

Full FAA statement

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.

United Airlines statement

United will immediately comply with the Airworthiness Directive and will work closely with the FAA and Boeing on the technical review as we work toward restoring 787 service. We will begin re-accommodating customers on alternate aircraft.

UPDATE 11:00 PM: A number of 787 operators and governments have followed the FAA’s directive:

  • LOT Polish Airlines, which was to fly its first 787 service from Chicago to Warsaw Wednesday evening, canceled the outbound flight after the inbound arrived. An official told reporters at the event that the airline was grounding all of its 787s
  • LAN announced that it is grounding its 787 fleet indefinitely
  • Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau said it will order the 787s of ANA and Japan Airlines to be grounded indefinitely (a moot point since the airlines had voluntarily stopped flying the planes)
  • India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation has told Air India to ground its 787 fleet


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  • FrankDaGank

    Sounds like a pretty good call to me. As a licensed pilot, I personally would NOT fly on the dreamliner.


  • wilmark johnatty

    Maybe they should check out Dell for advice about how to fix exploding battery problems.

    • Toaha Imran

      That would take longer because calls are directed to overseas lol