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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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear