Schedules in chaos as Dreamliner is grounded
Airlines scrambled to rearrange flights yesterday as regulators around the world joined the United States in grounding Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner passenger jets while battery-related problems are investigated.
Poland’s state-controlled LOT Airlines said it would seek compensation from Boeing for grounding its two planes. It expects delivery of three more Dreamliners by the end of March, but would only take them if the technical issues have been resolved, deputy chief Tomasz Balcerzak told a news conference.
Plagued by mishaps
The lightweight, mainly carbon-composite aircraft has been plagued by mishaps, raising concerns over its use of lithium-ion batteries.
An All Nippon Airways domestic flight made an emergency landing on Wednesday after warning lights indicated a battery problem.
Boeing shares were up about 0.6 per cent at $74.78 in afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading. For the first few weeks of the recent spate of incidents, the stock held up relatively well compared with the broader market, but has weakened recently as analysts grew wary of the costs Boeing might face.
“While it is entirely possible that the current battery issue is resolved in short order, it is also equally possible that the 787’s current certification could be called into question,” BBT Capital Markets analyst Carter Leake said, cutting his rating on the stock to “underweight”.
The US federal aviation administration (FAA) temporarily grounded Boeing’s newest commercial airliner on Wednesday, saying carriers would have to demonstrate the batteries were safe before the planes could resume flying.
It gave no details on when that might happen. It is the first such action since the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 had its airworthiness certificate suspended following a deadly crash in Chicago in 1979, analysts said.
Boeing has sold about 850 of its new aircraft, with 50 delivered to date. About half of those have been in operation in Japan, but airlines in India, South America, Poland, Qatar and Ethiopia, as well as United Airlines in the United States, are also flying the 787, which has a list price of $207 million (€154.7 million).
By Boeing’s accounting, the 787 program will not be considered profitable until the company has delivered 1,100 Dreamliners. As it stands, the plane accounts for a small portion of Boeing’s revenue, given that it produces five of them a month versus 35 for the 737 model.
Wrestling with gaps
With most of that Dreamliner fleet now effectively out of action as engineers and regulators make checks, primarily of the plane’s batteries and complex electronics systems, airlines are wrestling with gaps in their scheduling.
Japan Airlines cancelled eight Dreamliner flights between Tokyo and San Diego until January 25th, affecting some 1,290 passengers, and is to switch aircraft for another 70 flights scheduled to fly the 787. – (Reuters)