Turbulent Start for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner


Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has been the subject of so many rumors in the last several months it’s practically tabloid-worthy. Need a quick summary of the ups and downs?

The jet, which has been in development for over a decade, ran into its first problem during flight tests in November 2010, when an in-flight fire forced an emergency landing. In July 2012, falling debris from a Dreamliner engine during a very real flight led to a fire that temporarily shut down the Charleston International Airport.

December brought new problems for the Dreamliner. A United Airlines flight from Houston to Newark on December 4th was interrupted by a stop in New Orleans after a power generator failed, while one of three Qatar Airways 787s was grounded after electronic problems were reported on December 9th. In between, on December 5th, the FAA inspected the fleet’s fuel lines after claims of improper assembly that could cause leaks.

A string of incidents this week have solidified the plane’s place in air travel infamy. On January 7th, a battery fire filled one Japan Airlines plane with smoke after passengers had disembarked at Boston’s Logan Airport. The following day, another Japan Airlines Dreamliner experienced a fuel leak at Logan that cancelled its scheduled takeoff. And on January 9th, a flight on an All Nippon Airlines plane was cancelled when brake parts in the rear left undercarriage had to be replaced. Two more incidents with ANA flights on the 10th—a crack in a cockpit windshield of one plane and an oil-leaking engine in another—added to the week’s difficulties.

Mike Sinnett, Boeing vice president and 787 chief project engineer, has acknowledged during a Wednesday conference call with reporters that "clearly there are problems." However, Boeing is confident that the planes are safe and that all glitches will be fixed soon. "Just like any new airplane program, we work through those issues," he said. "We’re not satisfied until our reliability and performance is 100%."

Photos courtesy of Boeing