Japan Airlines grounds 787 following battery problem

In Other News - January 15th, 2014
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Japan Airlines has temporarily grounded one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport on Tuesday after white smoke was spotted outside the plane.

The airline said engineers noticed smoke as cockpit warning lights indicated potential problems with the main battery and charger. A battery cell showed clear signs of leaking. The problem occurred during routine maintenance and no passengers were on board.

The incident raised new concerns about the 787’s safety one year after the worldwide fleet of Dreamliners was grounded for three months due to problems with its batteries.

Boeing Co said it was aware of the issue and is working with Japan Airlines. The problem was believed to be caused by the “venting of a single battery cell,” Boeing said. It referred to the process of fumes and heat being channelled outside the aircraft when the battery overheats.

BBC’s transport correspondent Richard Westcott said that according to Boeing, “one cell within the lithium ion battery had gone wrong.”

“There are eight in total for each battery, and if the chemicals spread from one to the next it can potentially start a fire,” he said.

Boeing redesigned the battery system, although it has yet to determine the precise cause of the problem.

“The issue occurred during scheduled maintenance activities with no passengers on board,” said Boeing. “The improvements made to the 787 battery system last year appear to have worked as designed.”

The plane, due to depart from Tokyo Narita airport for Bangkok, was taken out of service, and the 158 passengers due to board the plane were put on a different 787, JAL said.

Boeing shares fell 0.6 percent to $139.87 on the New York Stock Exchange but eased back later.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Guerric/Flickr