The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States has issued an emergency airworthiness directive requiring all Boeing 787 Dreamliners to temporarily cease operations.
The decision follows a similar move from Japanese carriers, with Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways yesterday grounding all Dreamliners following an onboard battery fire.
The FAA decision means United Airlines, the only US carrier operating the aircraft, will now ground its fleet of Dreamliners, allowing time safety officials to address a potential battery fire risk in the 787.
The FAA will work with Bowing to develop a corrective action plan to allow the US 787 fleet to resume operations as “quickly and safely as possible”, the organisation said in a statement this morning.
Airlines in Chile and India also grounded 787s, while Lot Airlines of Poland cancelled a flight.
However, Boeing has once again stood by its aircraft.
In a statement Boeing chairman Jim McNerney said: “Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible.
“The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities.
“We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity.
“We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the travelling public of the 787’s safety and to return the airplanes to service.”
The in-flight Japanese battery incident followed an earlier 787 battery incident that occurred on the ground in Boston on January 7th, 2013.
The airworthiness directive was prompted by this second incident involving a lithium ion battery.
The battery failures resulted in release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage, and smoke on two Model 787 airplanes.
The root cause of these failures is currently under investigation.
“These conditions, if not corrected, could result in damage to critical systems and structures, and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment,” said the FAA.
Last Friday, the FAA announced a comprehensive review of the 787’s critical systems with the possibility of further action pending new data and information.
In addition to the continuing review of the aircraft’s design, manufacture and assembly, the agency also will validate that 787 batteries and the battery system on the aircraft are in compliance with the special condition the agency issued as part of the aircraft’s certification.
United Airlines is currently the only US airline operating the 787, with six airplanes in service.
When the FAA issues an airworthiness directive, it also alerts the international aviation community to the action so other civil aviation authorities can take parallel action to cover the fleets operating in their own countries.
In response, European aviation officials have also order the grounding of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
This is largest such grounding since 1979 when McDonnell Douglas DC-10s were grounded following a fatal crash.