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US orders Dreamliner review

Photo by Thor Jorgen Udvang
Photo by Thor Jorgen Udvang

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered a review into the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, following a series of recent faults with the aircraft.

The FAA said it would conduct an investigation into the “design, manufacture and assembly” of the B787, in order to “ensure that the aircraft meets the FAA’s high level of safety”.

“The safety of the travelling public is our top priority,” said US Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood. “This review will help us look at the root causes and do everything we can to safeguard against similar events in the future.”

Problems with the Dreamliner’s electrical systems came to light in December 2012, when a month-old aircraft operated by United Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing in New Orleans, on a flight from Houston to New York. A similar electrical fault also forced Qatar Airways to ground one of its Dreamliners last month, and last week two of Japan Airlines’ B787s suffered separate problems in the space of two days – one electrical fire and one suspected fuel leak. The aircraft’s launch customer, ANA, has also suffered problems in the past, including a fault with its Rolls-Royce engines that forced the airline to ground five of its B787s last year.

The FAA review will focus on the aircraft’s electrical power and distribution system, examining how the parts interact with each other.

“We are confident that the aircraft is safe, but we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening,” said FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “We are conducting the review to further ensure that the aircraft meets our high safety standards.”

The review will begin at Boeing’s headquarters in Seattle, but may expand to other locations as it progresses. The entire investigation is expected to take several months.

Boeing said it was confident the “safe and efficient” Dreamliner would hold up to the FAA’s scrutiny.

“More than a year ago, the 787 completed the most robust and rigorous certification process in the history of the FAA. We remain fully confident in the airplane’s design and production system,” the planemaker said in a statement. It acknowledged however, that the Dreamliner had experienced “in-service issues” in recent months and said it “welcomed the opportunity” to conduct the review.

Forty-nine B787s are currently in service with seven airlines; ANA (17), JAL (seven), United Airlines (six), Air India (five), Qatar Airways (five), Ethiopian Airlines (four), LAN Airlines (three) and LOT Polish Airlines (two). In total, Boeing has taken orders for 848 Dreamliners.