787 Trouble Continues: Will The Dreamliner Be Grounded Again?

Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off

787 Trouble Continues: Will The Dreamliner Be Grounded Again?

As its name would suggest, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aims to be every airline’s dream. The plane’s main attraction is its lithium-ion batteries that make it more efficient, and therefore cheaper to operate. With a capacity of up to 290 passengers and an ability to fly up to 8,500 miles (a third of the way around the Earth) on one tank of gas, the Dreamliner is 20 percent more fuel-efficient than any aircraft ever built. Due to its efficiency, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in the Dreamliner. With so much riding on the new aircraft, it’s no wonder airlines worldwide are still rooting for its success.

After being grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration in January due to battery troubles, the Dreamliner fleet is back and ready to take off  – or so we thought. Expectations were high for the re-release of the aircraft in May, but four incidents have already occurred in the past 12 days, causing skeptics to triple guess the up-and-coming fleet.

An All Nippon Airways 787 Dreamliner was grounded in Tokyo Thursday after the discovery of a mechanical problem. The delay was due to a problem with the power supply to the air-conditioning system. More than 100 passengers expecting to fly to Frankfurt instead departed on a different plane eight hours after the originally scheduled departure.

Additionally, a United Airlines Dreamliner headed for Denver was diverted back to Houston earlier this week due to a problem with its brake indicator. Only a week before the incident, two other United Airlines Dreamliners made unscheduled landings. A flight from Denver to Tokyo diverted to Seattle because of a problem with its oil filter. In addition, a Houston-bound flight from London diverted to Newark’s Liberty International Airport due to a low oil indication. Fortunately, both diversions occurred without incident and with no passenger injuries.

Just days before the first Dreamliner incident, United Airlines announced at The Paris Airshow that it’s ordering at least 25 more models of the aircraft, including 10 of the 787-10s, aka the stretch Dreamliner. This was a sure display of confidence for the airline, which has been using its fleet of six 787s since May 20.

What travelers should be asking is whether the Dreamliner is going to be grounded again. In other words: is it safe and worth their time and money?

Reporter David DeVoss wrote back in April that containing a problem is not the same thing as eliminating it. He was right, and the recent grounding incidents are proof of that.

Although the technical issues currently faced by the Dreamliner are not as crucial as, say, an airplane fire due to a battery meltdown, they still stand to question the reliability of the aircraft.

If history is any guide, travelers would be wise to wait until the Dreamliner’s problems are eliminated, not just contained.

For more reports on the Dreamliner’s issues, check out:

By Katharine Rooney for PeterGreenberg.com

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