Many are asking whether Boeing is approaching that fulcrum after yet another 787 battery problem prompted the grounding of all 17 of ANA’s Dreamliner fleet today (January 16). This followed an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport due to a cockpit warning of smoke in a battery compartment.
The incident occurred just days after another lithium battery on a landed Japan Airlines 787 caught fire at Boston airport, and was the ninth problem to hit an in-service 787 in little over a month; others have included a United Airlines emergency landing due to electrical problems, several fuel leaks and a windscreen that cracked in-flight.
Japan Airlines also cancelled its 787 flights today.
The raft of glitches has led to speculation that Boeing ramped up production of its newest aircraft too quickly in a bid to compensate for the 787’s massively delayed entry-into-service.
Refuting this, Boeing pointed out prior to the latest incident that the 787’s debut had not been noticeably more fraught than that of the 777.
And even if more batteries smoulder in the coming weeks, it may amount to little more than a PR setback for the 787, which has already bagged about 850 firm orders; considerably more serious failures would be needed before those began to be cancelled or switched.
Yet Airbus will be observing developments closely and will be grateful for the data that emerges. Like the 787, its new A350 will be heavily reliant on electrical systems, so knowledge of their potential pitfalls will prove extremely valuable.
As a result, the European manufacturer could claim to have out-manoeuvred Boeing on the future mainstays of both the world’s narrowbody and widebody fleets: by getting in early with the derivative A320neo and late with the all-new A350.ale