News / USA

Boeing's Dreamliner Woes Disrupt Some Travel; Airlines Upset

Passengers walk away from ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, Jan. 16, 2013.Passengers walk away from ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, Jan. 16, 2013.
x
Passengers walk away from ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, Jan. 16, 2013.
Passengers walk away from ANA's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane after it made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport, western Japan, Jan. 16, 2013.
International airlines have suspended their entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners as regulators investigate a fire risk linked to a recent series of battery problems.

The world's 50 Dreamliners were grounded indefinitely on Wednesday and Thursday, forcing their carriers to rearrange dozens of flights, and prompting some to call for compensation from the U.S. aerospace giant.

Japanese airlines ANA and JAL have kept their 24 Dreamliners on the ground since Wednesday, after an ANA 787 on a domestic flight made an emergency landing due to an overheated battery that leaked a flammable fluid. Nine days earlier, a battery caught fire on a JAL 787 parked in Boston.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered United Airlines to suspend flights by its six Dreamliners until the fire risk is resolved. The action sparked similar action by the other 787 operators: Air India, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Chile-based LAN Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines.

Flight disruptions

Peter Goelz, a Washington-based public relations specialist for major airlines, said he expects the global 787 fleet to be grounded for at least one or two weeks while investigators try to figure out why the jet's lithium-ion batteries are overheating.

Speaking to AlHurra television, O'Neill and Associates executive Goelz said the main impact will be on Japanese carriers' transoceanic flights to the United States and Europe.

Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia said cancellations of routes such as Tokyo to Boston will force some travelers to transit through hubs, a detour that the long-haul Dreamliner was meant to avoid.

"If the grounding persists for more than a few weeks, you will see more older aircraft come back into the mix," said Aboulafia, an executive at Fairfax, Virginia-based Teal Group Corporation.

Seeking damages

Two Dreamliner carriers intend to ask Boeing to compensate them for the groundings.

Indian Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told television network NDTV that New Delhi will seek reimbursement for state-owned Air India, which operates six of the jets. Also Thursday, LOT Polish Airlines deputy chief Tomasz Balcerzak said Poland's main carrier will file for compensation in "due course."

Airlines' contracts with aircraft builders such as Boeing are confidential, but they typically include guarantees of compensation in cases of mechanical flaws.

Aboulafia said delays in delivering 787s also have forced Boeing to pay billions of dollars in penalties to customers in the past few years.

"There is no doubt that there is tension. But if Boeing works with the airlines to fix the problems, all will be forgiven and the Dreamliner will enter service as planned."

In a statement released Wednesday, Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney expressed "deep regret" for the inconvenience caused to airlines and passengers. He also said Boeing is "confident" in the Dreamliner's "overall integrity" and promised to take "every necessary step" to ensure safety and return the jet to service.

Maintaining loyalty

Boeing is under contract to deliver another 798 Dreamliners to various airlines in the coming years. In a boost for the aircraft maker, several customers reaffirmed their orders on Wednesday, including Australia's Qantas, British Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Mike Mecham, senior editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology , said he is not surprised by the expressions of support.

"If you go back four years, when Boeing's manufacturing program started to fall behind schedule, it simply did not lose customers," he said. "Some dropped 787 orders for financial reasons because there was an economic downturn. But they remained confident in the airplane."

Mecham also said teething problems with new commercial planes are seen as relatively normal.

"Obviously if you have hot batteries and you are getting (burning) smells in cabins, then that is a pretty significant teething problem. But, people are accustomed to difficulties with new, complex aircraft. So I think airlines have a pretty high tolerance level."

Production fallout

Boeing hopes to speed up its production of Dreamliners to 10 per month by the end of this year, from a rate of five per month last November. Aboulafia said the probable need to modify the jet makes that target unlikely.  

"We are going to have some kind of slowdown. Last year, production was unexpectedly high. Boeing got 46 Dreamliners out of the door, but perhaps they should have taken a bit more time and made certain that all the quirks were ironed out."

A slowdown could affect some of the more than 50 foreign companies that supplied Boeing with the Dreamliner's engine, fuselage, wings, entry doors and landing gear and other parts.
787 Dreamliner, Parts Suppliers787 Dreamliner, Parts Suppliers
x
787 Dreamliner, Parts Suppliers
787 Dreamliner, Parts Suppliers

Boeing's financial cost from slowing production and grounded planes likely will remain unclear until the causes of 787 mishaps are determined.

Beating the competition

Prior to those incidents, Boeing had a successful 2012, overtaking main rival Airbus in total sales and deliveries of commercial planes for the first time in years. Boeing announces its October to December results on January 30.

Aboulafia predicted Boeing will report a "fantastic" quarter based on a "solid" output of commercial planes and resilient U.S. government spending on its military products.

"But, a shadow will be cast over the results by the Dreamliner experience," he said.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs