Japan Airlines said it has temporarily grounded one of its
Boeing 787 Dreamliners after white smoke was spotted outside
the plane as cockpit warning lights indicated potential
problems with the main battery and charger, and a battery
cell appeared to be leaking.
The incident raised new concerns about the 787's safety and
reliability about one year after the global 787 fleet was
grounded by regulators following the overheating of two
Boeing Co said it was "aware of the 787 issue that occurred
Tuesday afternoon at Narita, which appears to have involved
the venting of a single battery cell." It referred to the
process of fumes and heat being channeled outside the
Boeing shares fell 0.6 percent to $139.87 on the New York
The incident, which was disclosed by Japan Airlines early on
Wednesday, came nearly a year to the day after Japan Airlines
and All Nippon Airways grounded their 787 fleets after two
787 batteries overheated on two different planes in less than
Global regulators grounded the worldwide fleet on Jan. 16,
2013. The 787s remained grounded for more than three months
while Boeing redesigned the battery, charger and containment
system to ensure battery fires would not put the airplane at
risk. The cause of the battery problems has not been
United Airlines spokesperson Christen David said the company
was looking into the matter. United is the only US carrier
that uses the 787.
Japan Airlines said maintenance engineers who were in the
cockpit saw white smoke outside the plane. When they went
outside the aircraft the smoke had dispersed.
On returning to the cockpit, the engineers found warning
lights indicating possible faults with the main battery and
charger. When they checked the battery they found one of
eight cells was leaking a liquid.
The plane, due to depart from Tokyo Narita airport for
Bangkok, was taken out of service, and the 158 passengers due
to board the plane were put on a separate 787, JAL said.
Aerospace experts said the incident was troubling, but were
cautious about drawing broader conclusions. Richard
Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Teal Group in Fairfax,
Virginia, said the incident raised two questions: whether the
new system that contains the problem had worked, and whether
the root cause of the battery problems will ultimately be
"The real issue with containing the problem, rather than
getting to the root cause of the problem, concerns
economics," Aboulafia said. "Incidents can be successfully
contained, but if you continue to see incidents like these,
you've got a mounting bill from taking jets offline, and
repairing their battery systems. You've got an image problem,
Hans Weber, a former FAA adviser and president of TECOP
International, an aerospace technology consulting firm, said
the incident might provide more clues about the cause of the
problem, such as overcharging.
He said it appeared the containment system worked. "It
limited the problem to one faulty cell. It contained the
problem and vented the fumes outside the airplane, as
designed," he said, basing his comments on JAL's initial
statements about the incident.