US joins investigation into Boeing 787 Dreamliner

US safety officials have arrived in Japan to help assess Boeing's malfunctioning aircraft.

New Statesman
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Photograph: Getty Images

The US has today joined the investigation into the problematic Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft that has prompted the entire fleet to be temporarily suspended from flight. The plane is already under assessment by officials from Boeing, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), after a series of incidents raised questions over its safety.

The planes, which Boeing had hailed the future of air travel because of their innovative system and design, had suffered numerous problems including an electrical fire, fuel leaks, as well as experiencing issues with its brakes. The largest cause for concern, however, are the plane's lithium ion batteries.

GS Yuasa Corp, the Japanese company that makes the Dreamliner’s batteries has sent three engineers to aid the investigation, which is taking place at Takamatsu Airport in western Japan. A spokesperson for GS Yuasa Corp has said,

"Our company's battery has been vilified for now, but it only functions as part of a whole system. So we're trying to find out exactly where there was a problem within the system."

The recent emergency landing of the 787 has been deemed “highly serious” by the Japanese government, and proved to be the catalyst for the first major aircraft grounding since 1979. The investigation is proving detrimental to planemaker Boeing, whose shares had dropped more than 3pc to $74.35 (£46.51) yesterday.

Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney, has released a statement on the issue, stating that safety is their “highest priority”. McNerney went on to say,

“We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity.  We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service.”

But Robert Stallard, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets believes that consequences may be more severe for Boeing,

“What started as a series of relatively minor, isolated incidents now threatens to overhang Boeing until it can return confidence.”