Qatar Airlines removed one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners from service Friday, according to reports, after smoke was seen near an electrical panel, and while carrier officials are calling the reason a minor technical issue, this latest disruption follows a rocky timeline for the Dreamliner.
Boeing has directed all comments to Qatar Airlines. In the six months ending June 30, Boeing delivered 17 Dreamliners.
On July 15, a fire aboard an Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner parked at London Heathrow Airport, initially thought to be caused by the same lithium ion battery problems that plagued the plane, was determined to result from a problem with the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). An investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch is ongoing, but has already lead to some anticipated changes.
“Detailed examination of the ELT has shown some indications of disruption to the battery cells. It is not clear however, whether the combustion in the area of the ELT was initiated by a release of energy within the batteries or by an external mechanism such as an electrical short,” the agency said in a bulletin. “In the case of an electrical short, the same batteries could provide the energy for an ignition and suffer damage in the subsequent fire.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration called for the inspection of the lithium battery-powered ELTs on Dreamliner aircraft on July 20, asking companies to inspect for “any signs of wire damage or pinching” and to also check for moisture in the battery compartment.
“The FAA is preparing to issue an Airworthiness Directive in the coming days that would make these inspections mandatory,” it said in a statement. “Federal Aviation Regulations do not require large commercial aircraft in scheduled service to be equipped with these devices.”
So far, United Airlines and ANA have found damage to their beacons, according to reports.
The FAA grounded all Dreamliner flights in the United States in the middle of January after a fire on an ANA Dreamliner flight in Boston was caused an overheated lithium ion battery. ANA also grounded all of its Dreamliner planes, only bringing them back in to service on June 1 once a Boeing-created battery fix was implemented. The FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Japan Transport Safety Board helped in Boeing's quest to redesign the internal battery components. The fix worked to lessen the chance of a short circuit, which was determined to be the culprit in the lithium-ion fires. The Boeing team also added a new venting system and better cell insulation to the design.
The FAA approved Boeing’s new battery plan in March and issued a final directive to return to service in April.
ANA turned in operating loss of 6.5 billion yen ($66.2 million) for its fiscal first quarter due, in part, to the grounding of Dreamliner services.
“The primary reason for the increase in operating expenses was a rise in fuel costs due to the weakening of the yen. Operating revenues were also held back by the suspension of Boeing 787 services for part of the period,” the company said. - Jon Ross