Both All Nippon Airways (ANA) and rival Japan Airlines (JAL) grounded their fleets of Boeing 787 aircraft Wednesday. The moves came after an ANA flight was forced to make an emergency landing in western Japan due to battery problems. No one was injured in the landing, but ANA Vice-President Osamu Shinobe bowed and apologized at a news conference in Tokyo Wednesday.
“We are extremely sorry for causing concern to the passengers, their families and those involved. We are sorry,” Shinobe said.
ANA’s fleet currently has 17 of the Boeing aircraft, which are commonly called Dreamliners. Japan airlines has seven Dreamliners. In all, around 50 are in service around the globe.
The incident in Japan is only one in a string of issues which have affected the Dreamliner since it began commercial service back in the fall of 2011.
An inspection of the aircraft found leaking and burn marks around the main battery, located under the cockpit. On January 7, a battery pack in an empty Japan Airlines 787 airplane caught fire at Logan Airport in Boston; US officials are still investigating that incident.
Some aviation experts say that the Dreamliner is just experiencing the “teething problems” that all new aircraft go through. But Thomas Ballantyne of Orient Aviation told the BBC: “This is more than that. There are too many things happening, and in different areas of the aircraft, to be simply teething problems.”
Aviation expert Chris Yates told the BBC that ANA and JAL made the right call in grounding their Dreamliners for now.
“Both of those airlines operate very long haul flights with the aircraft, typically trans-Pacific,” he said, noting that alternative airfields are “few and far between” when flying over the Pacific.