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

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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