Federal Aviation Administration says Boeing 787 is safe, but starts review

The government stepped in Friday to assure the public that Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner is safe to fly.
By JOAN LOWY and JOSHUA FREED Published: January 12, 2013
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— The government stepped in Friday to assure the public that Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner is safe to fly, even as it launched a comprehensive review to find out what caused a fire, a fuel leak and other worrisome incidents this week.

Despite the incidents, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared, “I believe this plane is safe, and I would have absolutely no reservations about boarding one of these planes and taking a flight.” Administrator Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration said his agency has seen no data suggesting the plane isn't safe but wanted the review to find out why safety-related incidents occurred.

The 787 is the aircraft maker's newest and most technologically advanced airliner, and the company is counting heavily on its success. It relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It's also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries. The plane is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.

Fire starts, fuel leaks

A fire ignited Monday in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787 empty of passengers as the plane sat on the tarmac at Boston's Logan International Airport. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze. Also this week, a fuel leak delayed a flight from Boston to Tokyo of another Japan Airlines 787.

Friday, Japan's All Nippon Airways reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft. Spokeswoman Ayumi Kunimatsu said a small amount of oil was found leaking from an engine of a 787 flight from southern Japan's Miyazaki airport to Tokyo.

The jet returned to Miyazaki, and after checks found no safety risk it flew to Tokyo. The airline said that on another flight, to Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, glass in a cockpit window cracked, and the aircraft was grounded for repairs. All Nippon Airways said it has no specific plan for inspections and will continue regular operations, though it said it would comply with instructions from the FAA and other authorities.

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