Five questions answered on Japan’s grounded Dreamliner fleet

What are the implications?

Japan’s two main airliners have been forced to ground its fleet of Boeing Dreamliner planes. We answer five questions on the Boeing Dreamliner’s current problems.

Why have the planes been grounded?

It is believed Japan’s two leading airlines, Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, grounded all Boeing 787 Dreamliners after Nippon Airways was forced to make an emergency landing due to battery problems.

On Wednesday the  ANA's flight NH 692 left Yamaguchi Ube in western Japan at 08:10 local time (23:10 GMT) and headed for Tokyo's Haneda airport. Shortly after take off Pilots received a warning telling them smoke was inside one of the electrical compartments, although the source of the smoke is not yet known.

Pilots also received a warning that there was a fault in the on board battery system. It is believed the battery on board is the same battery as the one involved in a fire on another Dreamliner at a US airport last week.

Pilots did an emergency landing and evacuated all 129 passengers and eight crew at nearby Takamatsu airport at 08:47. Some passengers sustained minor injuries.

Nippon has grounded all 17 of its Dreamliners and Japan Airlines says it will ground all of its seven Dreamliners from the 16 January.

Has the Dreamliner model been involved in any other concerning incidences?

There have been six other reported incidences involving Japanese owned Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the last ten days.

Last week, the US Federal Aviation Administration started a joint review with Boeing of the design, manufacturing and assembly of the Dreamliner.

Then on Tuesday, Japanese authorities said they would conduct an inquiry after two fuel leaks on different 787 operated by Japan Airlines.

What are the wider implications of these reported problems?

The Dreamliner, as Boeing’s flagship new airline, has attracted orders from many worldwide well-known airlines which may now be concerned.

India Airways and United Airlines in the only US deploys Dreamliners but have no plans to take them out of operation.

Qantas also said its order of 15 Dreamliners is on track.

Depending on the outcome of the two inquires by the US and Japan the Boeing 787 Dreamliners may need to undergo re-engineering and be grounded indefinitely.

What have officials said?

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): "The FAA is monitoring a preliminary report of an incident in Japan earlier today involving a Boeing 787. The incident will be included in the comprehensive review the FAA began last week of the 787 critical systems, including design, manufacture and assembly."

What are the experts saying?

"You're nearing the tipping point where they need to regard this as a serious crisis," said Richard Aboulafia, a senior analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia told the BBC.

"This is going to change people's perception of the aircraft if they don't act quickly."

Chris de Lavigne of Frost and Sullivan in Singapore disagreed and told the BBC that this isn’t that unusual:  "It is not abnormal for new aircraft to have some teething problems."

Adding: “There were initial issues with the Airbus A380 as well. Look where it is today; it is flying successfully and everyone seems to be happy with it."

 

A dreamliner. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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