Battered with a series of safety concerns over its high-tech batteries, officials at the Mineta San Jose International Airport on Tuesday announced that all Dreamliner flights from Silicon Valley to Tokyo will be halted through Monday.
That news follows on the heels of the airline, All Nippon Airways, or ANA, grounding its fleet of 17 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft on Jan. 15.
The following day, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of all the U.S.-registered Dreamliners because of battery fires. No one has been injured during any of the Dreamliner flights, but there have been some emergency landings in Japan because of battery leakage problems.
The 787 relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It's also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries. The plane is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.
Just this month, ANA began operating five weekly San Jose-to-Tokyo flights - the news was heralded at a big party on Jan. 11 at San Jose's airport, coincidentally on a day when the Dreamliner plane had reported safety problems elsewhere. Still, on Tuesday, airport officials said in a statement they were "supportive" of the decision and the "city of San Jose is confident about ANA's commitment to both passengers and SJC." ANA is rebooking passengers, who can check in at fly-ana.com or call 1-800-235-9262.
The 787, known as the Dreamliner, is Boeing's newest and most technologically advanced jet, and the company is counting heavily on its success. Since its launch, which came after delays of more than three years, the plane has been plagued by a series of problems including a battery fire and fuel leaks. Japan's ANA and Japan Airlines are major customers for the jet and among the first to fly it.
The earliest manufactured jets of any new aircraft usually have problems and airlines run higher risks in flying them first, said Brendan Sobie, Singapore-based chief analyst at CAPA-Center for Aviation. Since about half the 787 fleet is in Japan, more problems are cropping up there.
Two of the problems included:
- A fire igniting Jan. 7 in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787 empty of passengers as the plane sat on the tarmac at Boston's Logan International Airport. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze.
- ANA canceled a domestic flight to Tokyo on Jan. 9 after a computer wrongly indicated there was a problem with the Boeing 787's brakes. Two days later, the carrier reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft — a minor fuel leak and a cracked windscreen in a cockpit.
After one of the incidents earlier this month, ANA executives apologized, bowing deeply at a hastily called news conference in Tokyo.
"We are very sorry to have caused passengers and their family members so much concern," said ANA Senior Executive Vice President Osamu Shinobe.
The Associated Press's Elaine Kurtenbach, Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report.