Just 14 months after taking flight for the first time Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has been grounded. Following a spate of incidents involving battery failures Japanese carriers ANA and JAL voluntarily stopped operating the planes earlier in the week while searching for the cause of the troubles. Shortly thereafter the FAA issued an emergency directive, citing the batteries as too great a hazard risk; this move prohibits any US carriers (namely United Airlines, the only operator of the type in the United States) from flying the planes. Shortly after the FAA's move other nations followed suit. At this time no 787s are flying anywhere in the world.
While many are decrying the battery issues and subsequent grounding of the planes as a huge problem and blow to the 787 Dreamliner program or as a massive overreaction it is not clear that either is actually the case. Nearly every aircraft type has suffered problems at its launch. Most have not been quite so public, most have not had to deal with the in-your-face publicity of Twitter, Facebook, and the like. But they have had troubles. And, more importantly, by identifying the problem and grounding the fleet the FAA has given Boeing and the airlines the ability to address and resolve the problems before they become more severe. Thus far there have been no injuries associated with the 787s; this move should allow that record to stand quite a while longer.
For the airlines, the groundings will have a noticeable impact. LOT had their inaugural Warsaw-Chicago flight on Wednesday and was due to have the return inaugural that night. That flight was scuttled with the order from the FAA. Similarly, JAL has canceled their service between both Boston and San Diego and Tokyo, and ANA has suspended a number of routes, both internationally and domestically. LAN, Air India, Qatar, and Ethipoian have similarly affected schedules, though fewer affected planes.
The grounding is certainly a bit of a black eye for Boeing but it is one which will be resolved and the planes will return to the sky, safer than before. Nothing wrong with that at all.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Boeing