THE TRAVEL GLITCH OF THE YEAR

BOEING’S NEW 787 DREAMLINER TAKEN OFF THE TARMAC

The mostly eagerly anticipated aircraft of the decade has been taken out of service worldwide because of fire-inducing issues with the new lithium ion batteries unique to the 787. ANA and Japan Airlines have already taken delivery of 28 of the planes. Air India has has 6. Lot-Polish, the only European carrier to have taken delivery, has two. And United Airlines, the first US airline to take delivery of the 787,  has 6 with many more on order.

This is no ordinary review. The FAA believes that the reported battery failures have resulted in the release of flammablke electrolytes. This causes heat and smoke which can cause damage to critical aspects of the aircraft’s flight systems.

This will not be a short-term fix. The FAA has ordered United to “modify”, not change, the battery system. Lithium ion batteries were part of the design of the 787 because they are generally efficient and they are lightweight, an important criteria in the aircraft’s design.  The FAA also informed United and other carriers wishing to fly the aircraft into the United States, that “further modifications” may be ordered once the battery failure is corrected.

Boeing, of course, is going to put the best spin possible on this story. The intense rivalry between Boeing and Airbus is well documented and this could effect sales of future aircraft. But what must have happened to convince every one of the airline’s currently using the plane to take them out of service? Given the promotion of the Dreamliner as “the Aircraft of the Future” and “The Most Comfortable Plane in the Air”, those airlines touting the arrival of their new aircraft are suffering PR humiliation to an extraordinary degree.

United’s service will barely be affected. The airline is large enough to merely change out aircraft in a grounding of six planes. But in Japan and India, the economic impact of these groundings is far more significant and routes, some of which include the United States, have, for the time being, been cancelled. 

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