US federal regulators are ordering a comprehensive review of Boeing’s brand-new fleet of 787 Dreamliners, after a string of scares struck the state-of-the-art passenger jet in a week.
The Federal Aviation Administration finally launched the probe after a crack appeared in a cockpit window during a domestic All Nippon Airways flight in Japan today.
The review is an embarrassing setback to the plane that was heralded as the future of aviation, after four separate malfunctions occurred this week alone, including a brake failure, a fuel leak and an on-board fire.
The FAA says the review will include the design, manufacture and assembly of the aircraft.
Speaking of today’s incident, ANA said crew noticed a spider web-like crack in a window in front of the pilot’s seat about 70 minutes into Friday’s flight, which was close to its destination.
‘Cracks appear a few times every year in other planes. We don’t see this as a sign of a fundamental problem’ with Boeing aircraft, a spokesman for the airline said.
The 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does.
It is also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries and to be made with lightweight composite materials.
More than 800 have been sold to airlines around the world, which Boeing has said will be more fuel efficient than comparable jets and more comfortable for passengers.
But the Dreamliner has flown under a cloud since its maiden voyage on in October 2011, which itself saw repeated delays lasting more than three years after a slew of faults were detected.
On Wednesday, All Nippon Airlines was forced to cancel a domestic flight to Tokyo after a computer wrongly indicated a problem with the 787’s brakes.
On Tuesday, a fuel leak forced a 787 operated by Japan Airlines to cancel takeoff at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
And a day before that, another Dreamliner caught fire after dropping off 183 passengers and crew from Tokyo at Boston when a battery in the jet’s auxiliary power system overheated.
Nobody was hurt as passengers and crew had already disembarked.
But those were not the only issues that have blemished the much-vaunted launch of air travel’s latest addition.
In December United Airlines’ brand-new Dreamliner, carrying 174 passengers and 10 crew, was forced to make an emergency landing in New Orleans due to a mechanical issue.
In the same month, Qatar Airways grounded one of its Dreamliners after several similar faults caused electrical problems.
But the airline’s image has been besieged by a string of other problems that began long before its inaugural flight.
In July last year, debris from a brand-new Dreamliner’s engine sparked a fire at a South Carolina airport forcing emergency crews to close the Charleston International Airport for more than an hour.
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board uncovered cracks in the forward end of a fan midshaft in one of its engines.
And an incident in February 2012 saw Boeing report signs of ‘delamination’ occurring on a support structure in the Dreamliner’s rear fuselage, launching an inspection.
It is the first large-scale commercial aircraft made 50 per cent from ‘composite materials’ including plastics and carbon fibre and experts believe it could bring an end to the ‘aluminium age’.
Source: The Daily Mail