Another Dreamliner near-nightmare

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January 7, 2013, 5:29 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe - Boston) - After nearly four years of production delays, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has justifiedly been hailed as a revolution in air travel: 20 percent more fuel-efficent than standard jetliners, with special on-board comfort features and bigger windows, a long-range jet that is making all kinds of new routes like Boston-Tokyo newly economical.

But of late, the Dreamliner has been plagued by a drip-drip-drip of bad headlines.

In December alone: A United Houston-Chicago flight diverted to New Orleans when an electric generator failed mid-flight. More electric problems on a Qatar Air 787. Fuel-line problems on several Dreamliners that led the Federal Aviation Administration to order all 36 of the jets in service inspected.

And then, on Monday morning, a smoky fire on a Japan Air Lines Dreamliner, apparently started by a battery explosion inside the auxiliary battery power supply, after it had landed at Logan International Airport and all 184 passengers and crew safely deplaned.

Massport Aviation Director Edward C. Freni said it was an aberration.

"We've had pretty good success with the reliability of the plane," Freni said. "We've only had a few instances of mechanical issues" involving the 787, which is used for JAL's daily inbound Flight 8 and outbound Flight 7.

Boeing said in a corporate statement: "We are aware of the incident and are working with our customer."

On a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.4 percent, Boeing stock was down 2 percent, or $1.56 to $76.13. Obviously, many factors were affecting Boeing stock, but a move of that magnitude suggests the JAL fire is a problem for Boeing, but in and of itself not catastrophic for Boeing.

Israel Shaked, a Boston University professor and principal with aviation experts The Michel-Shaked Group, said, "It's complicated, but I believe Boeing can fix it, and long-term, I don't think it's any detrimental impact to the company.

"Boeing works very closelt with the authorities. They are well known for many years for responding to these kinds of problems. Their quality control is superb. Is it perfect? No, but one can trust that Boeing will fix these kinds of problems."

With videographer John J. Hammann

Tags: NECN, Peter Howe, Airline inspection
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