(TOKYO) — Two Japanese airliners have grounded their Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes after a jet was forced to make an emergency landing on Wednesday, prompting more concerns as a recent string of mishaps continues to plague the new fleet.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) said a battery warning light and a burning smell were detected in the cockpit and the cabin, forcing the Dreamliner to land at Takamatsu Airport in Japan earlier Wednesday.
The domestic flight landed safely about 45 minutes after it took off and all 128 passengers and eight crew members had to evacuate using the emergency chutes. Two people sustained minor injuries on their way down the chute, Osamu Shinobe, ANA’s senior executive vice president, told a news conference in Tokyo.
ANA and its rival — Japan Airlines (JAL) — subsequently grounded their Dreamliner fleets. ANA operates 17 of Boeing’s Dreamliner planes, while JAL has seven 787s in service.
Both airliners say the Dreamliner fleet will remain grounded at least through Thursday.
ANA said the battery in question during Wednesday’s incident was the same lithium-ion type battery that caught fire on board the JAL Dreamliner in Boston last week. Inspectors found liquid leaking from the battery on Wednesday, and said it was “discolored.”
Japan’s transport ministry categorized the problem as a “serious incident” that could have led to an accident.
John Hansman, MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics, said, “If this was an actual fire, that’s a major problem. And it would be a major problem even if nothing happened over the past week.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that it is “monitoring a preliminary report of an incident in Japan earlier today [Wednesday] involving a Boeing 787.”
After the latest incident, Boeing said, “We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies.”
Both the FAA and Boeing will send representatives to Japan. The National Transportation Safety Board also said it will send an investigator to the scene.
The Japanese Transport Ministry dispatched its own inspectors to Takamatsu Airport on Wednesday. A spokesman said the Transport Safety Board and Civil Aviation Bureau will conduct separate investigations.
The FAA ordered a comprehensive review of the plane’s design in a news conference on Jan. 11 with Boeing. But the agency assured the public that the 787s were safe to continue flying while they looked into the fleet’s design and safety measures.
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