Japan Airlines (JAL) has grounded another of its Dreamliner jets after "white smoke" was reportedly seen outside the cockpit window during a maintenance check, a year after the aircraft was grounded for months over battery problems.
JAL said that a technician at Tokyo's Narita airport, who was working on the parked plane before its departure to Bangkok on Tuesday afternoon, first noticed what appeared to be smoke outside the cockpit window and then saw a battery system warning.
An investigation found that one of the eight lithium-ion cells in the plane's battery system had leaked, although its safety valve, which is designed to release excessive pressure, was properly open.
"The temperature of the cell was high. We believe it caused 'white smoke', which could be smoke or vapour," a JAL spokesman said.
The airline said it replaced the grounded plane with another Dreamliner, which left on schedule carrying 169 passengers and crew.
"We are making sure of the safety of every plane before its departure. We will continue regular flights [with Dreamliners]," a separate JAL spokesman, Norihisa Hanyu, told AFP.
In response to the incident, US-based Boeing said the "improvements made to the 787 battery system last year appear to have worked as designed".
Boeing admitted last April that, despite months of testing, it did not know the root cause of the problems, but made modifications it said would ensure the issue did not recur.
The measures comprised redesigning the battery and charger system and adding a steel box to prevent burning.
Since then, Dreamliners have experienced a series of minor glitches, including a fault with an air pressure sensor and the brake system.
In October, unflushable toilets caused JAL pilots to turn their plane around just after it left Moscow en route for Tokyo.
JAL's domestic rival, All Nippon Airways, also said Wednesday that it would continue flying its Dreamliner fleet. The two airlines are the aircraft's two biggest customers and have invested heavily in its success.
The incident was the latest for the Dreamliner since the trouble-plagued aircraft returned to service in the middle of last year following a months-long worldwide grounding.
The move was linked to a string of incidents, including a fire aboard a parked Dreamliner, which damaged the fuel-efficient jet's reputation and that of its US manufacturer, Boeing.
The Kyoto-based GS Yuasa battery maker said it was "cooperating with Boeing and Japan Airlines on finding the cause" of the latest battery malfunction. It declined to elaborate.
The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was working with Boeing and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau to investigate the incident while the US National Transportation Safety Board said it was ready to assist Japanese authorities as needed.
Officials at the Japanese transport ministry's air safety unit were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
The number of Dreamliner 787s in operation worldwide had more than doubled from the 50 in service when the plane was grounded last year.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-01-15