F.A.A. Orders Grounding of U.S.-Operated Boeing 787s

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The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it was temporarily grounding all Boeing 787s operated by United States carriers after several incidents in recent weeks, including a battery fire, and after an All Nippon Airways flight in Japan was forced to make an emergency landing on Wednesday.
The F.A.A.’s emergency airworthiness directive only applies directly to United Airlines, currently the sole American carrier using the new plane, with six 787s. But the agency said it would alert other aviation regulators to take similar action, and it seems likely that international carriers will comply with the directive.

Eight airlines now fly the Dreamliner. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines in Japan own 24 of the 50 delivered by Boeing since November 2011. The other operators are Air India, Ethiopian Airlines, LAN Airlines of Chile, LOT of Poland and Qatar Airways. Orders for about 800 additional 787s are in the pipeline.

“The F.A.A. will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible,” the F.A.A. said in a statement.

Thanks to its extensive use of lighter composite materials and more efficient engines, the 787 is expected to usher a new era of more fuel-efficient travel, particularly over long distances.

But so far, the aircraft’s problems have been linked to a feature that had garnered much less attention until now: the 787’s extensive use of electric systems. Unlike modern passenger jets built in the past decades, which use mechanical and pneumatic systems to power hydraulic pumps, the 787 makes extensive use of electrical systems instead.

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