“We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Mike Sinnett, chief engineer on the 787, said last week that the plane’s batteries have operated through a combined 1.3 million hours and never had an internal fault. He said they were built with multiple protections to ensure that failures “don’t put the airplane at risk.”
The lithium-ion design was chosen because it’s the only type of battery that can take a large charge in a short amount of time.
Neither GS Yuasa Corp., the Japanese company that supplies the batteries for the 787, nor Thales, which makes the battery charging system, would comment on the recent troubles.
Boeing and its customers will need to move quickly to resolve the problem. The aircraft maker has booked orders for more than 800 of the planes from airlines around the world attracted by its increased fuel efficiency.
The jet’s lightweight design makes it more of a fuel-sipper; fuel is the largest expense for most airlines. It’s so lightweight in part because it uses electricity to do things that other airplanes do with hot air vented through internal ducts. So a 787 with electrical problems is like a minivan that won’t haul kids. It goes to the heart of what the thing was built to do.
The FAA order had airlines, flight crews and passengers scrambling to figure out what to do next. Stanislaw Radzio, the captain of a LOT Polish Airlines 787 that landed at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago late Wednesday, told The Associated Press he wasn’t sure when the plane would be heading back to Poland.
“We’re grounded like everyone else,” he said. “We are very unhappy with the situation.”
A passenger on the flight, Taras Dukyn, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he was surprised when told of the grounding by reporters, but would be willing to fly the aircraft again if the problems were fixed.
“It’s a really nice plane. Computers in every chair. It was comfortable, although I was a little hot,” he said.
Freed reported from Minneapolis. Associated Press writers Herb McCann in Chicago, Elaine Kurtenbach and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.
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