JAL grounds one of its 787 Dreamliners
Japan Airlines has grounded one of its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners after white smoke was spotted streaming out of the battery system in a pre-departure maintenance check.
The aircraft, which was parked at Tokyo's Narita airport and was scheduled to leave for Bangkok, is believed to have suffered a technical problem relating to a battery cell leakage.
A warning sign for the battery system problem was detected by a maintenance worker in the cockpit of the plane, while white smoke was reportedly spotted outside the window.
“The safety pressure relief valve connecting to one battery cell out of eight was found to have opened, it was found that liquid had dispersed in the main battery enclosure,” said a statement from Japan Airlines (JAL).
The incident is likely to reignite safety concerns surrounding the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which was hailed as the aircraft of the future when it was first unveiled but has encountered a string of technical issues since its first commercial flight in 2011.
The 250-seat jetliner, which endured three years of delays before its launch, is built with high-tech carbon fibre composite materials and a powerful electrical system which reduce weight and improve its fuel efficiency.
The most recent incident occurred almost a year exactly after the global Dreamliner fleet was controversially grounded by regulators following several incidents also related to batteries.
These included a fire breaking out in a lithium ion battery on board a Japan Airlines 787 parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport and a battery overheating on an All Nippon Airways flight in Japan less than two weeks later.
It was on January 16 last year that global regulators grounded the worldwide fleet for more than three months as Boeing engineers redesigned the battery, charger and containment system to ensure there were no further incidents.
Boeing, whose shares closed down 0.5 per cent at $140.01 on the New York Stock Exchange, emphasised that design changes made as a result of these earlier battery-related incidents had worked as planned during the latest technical mishap.
“The issue occurred during scheduled maintenance activities with no passengers on board,” Boeing said in a statement. “The improvements made to the 787 battery system last year appear to have worked as designed.”
A spokesman for JAL told the Telegraph: “The aircraft is still grounded and will be until the battery system and other related parts has been completely changed.”
The airline, which has issued an apology and launched an investigation into the incident, emphasised that no one was on board the aircraft at the time, with its 158 scheduled passengers flown to their destination on board another aircraft with a delay of only seven minutes.