All 50 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners have been ordered grounded as of January 16, 2013 by various global aviation authorities including the FAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Chile's DGAC, the Japanese Transport Ministry, and the Director General of Civil Aviation of India.
The directives to ground the $210 million dollar long-range, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliners followed a series of dramatic operational emergencies that involved fuel leaks, cracked cockpit windows, battery fires, and smoke detected within electrical panels, as reported on Thursday, January 17, 2013 by CNN, Reuters News Service, Forbes, and other international media.
The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the incidents at Boston Logan International Airport involving smouldering lithium cobalt oxide batteries and fuel leaks in Dreamliners operated by Japan Airlines (JL) and United Airlines (UA), the only U.S. carrier to have received delivery of the new planes.
Other airlines also affected by the shutdown of Boeing 787 service includes All Nippon Airways (NH), Air India (AI), LOT Polish Airlines (LO), Qatar Airways (QR), and Ethiopian Airlines (ET).
The Boeing Company claims that the multiple problems are no more serious than those which surfaced after the introduction of its 777 and 707 jet airliners. In an official statement issued on January 16, 2013, Boeing President and CEO Jim McNemey made the following comments:
"Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible. The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities. We will make available the entire resources of The Boeing Company to assist."
"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."
The Chicago-based aerospace company with major assembly facilities in the Seattle, Wash. area has a great deal at stake. The $56 billion dollar market capitalization of its stock, symbol BA, is off its 52-week high of $78.02, closing on Thursday, January 17 at $75.26, up $0.92 for the day. Sentiment by investment analysts remains bullish, with an average target price of $87.55 and currently 19 buy recommendations.
Total orders for the aircraft, including 787-8 and 787-9 versions, stand at 890, with 50 planes delivered to date.
Newer lithium iron phosphate batteries (LiFePO) are cited in a Norwegian technical bulletin as having less reaction energy during what are called "thermal runaway" situations. Such batteries were not available when the Boeing 787 contracts were signed in 2005. It is possible that one of the solutions to the battery overheating issue will be to replace the lithium cobalt oxide (LiCo) with newer versions.
It is unlikely that Boeing will suffer any major financial losses or order cancellations as a result of these recent operating problems. However passengers will be impacted by the aircraft grounding, and disruption in scheduling. For example, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Japan Airlines has suspended the newly inaugurated nonstop service between San Diego International Airport (SAN) and Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT). According to JAL, it was temporarily discontinuing its 787 operations to "ensure complete safety."
It is likely that once these issues are resolved, barring any major in-flight incidents, they will be regarded as but a glitch in the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
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