Controversial Dreamliner Soars From San Jose to Tokyo

A Dreamliner flight to Tokyo from the Mineta San Jose International Airport soared into the skies Friday, coincidentally on the same day that the FAA announced it was launching a safety review into the 787 Boeings.

Still, that didn't deter San Jose city leaders from hoping that the All Nippon Airways flight direct from Silicon Valley to Japan will be a silver bullet in revitalizing San Jose's airport.

San Jose's airport has tried for years to become a bustling and profitable airport like the one a stone's throw away in San Francisco. City officials hope this new route will generate $78 million in business and more than 60 jobs in San Jose in its first year.

“Whether on business or visiting friends and family, Silicon Valley residents will find that (the) new flight offers a convenient connection to Japan and the Pacific Rim," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. "I thank ANA for their investment in San Jose and encourage all Silicon Valley residents to experience the comfort, efficiency and ease of flying out of our state-of-the-art airport.”

The timing of the flight's San Jose launch of Flight 1075, in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet aircraft, was tinged a bit on Friday, as the Federal Aviation Administration announced  conducting a comprehensive review of the design, manufacture and assembly of the Boeing 787, but government officials declared the plane safe despite recent incidents including a fire and a fuel leak earlier this week.

To read the full FAA safety review story, click here.

The 787, which Boeing calls the "Dreamliner," is the aircraft maker's newest and most technologically advanced airliner. It 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.

A fire ignited Monday 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. Also this week, a fuel leak delayed a flight from Boston to Tokyo of another Japan Airlines 787.
On Friday, Japan's All Nippon Airways reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft. ANA spokeswoman Ayumi Kunimatsu said a very small amount of oil was discovered leaking from the left engine of a 787 flight from southern Japan's Miyazaki airport to Tokyo.

The jet returned to Miyazaki, but after checks found no safety risk, it flew to Tokyo. ANA said on another flight, to Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, glass in a cockpit window cracked, and the aircraft was grounded for repairs. ANA said it has no specific plan for inspections and will continue regular operations, though it said it would comply with instructions from the FAA and other authorities.

Boeing has insisted that the 787's problems are no worse than what it experienced when its 777 was new in the mid-1990s. That plane is now one of its top-sellers and is well-liked by airlines.

The All Nippon Airways flight is the first direct San Jose flight to Asia since American Airlines ended its San Jose-Toyko service seven years ago.

And it was this good news that folks in Silicon Valley wanted to concentrate on.

The All Nippon Airways flight will start with five flights a week, excluding Tuesdays and Thursdays. And San Jose officials have been in discussions with the airlines since 2008.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce and Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce have been actively engaged in the effort to recruit direct service to Tokyo, which is a priority travel route for Silicon Valley businesses.

“While this is terrific news because service to Japan opens up all of Asia as well, it’s only the first step which was to secure the flight and a start date. The real work, to which the 375 CEOs who own the Silicon Valley Leadership Group are committed, is to ensure those ANA flights are full,” said Guardino. “Like Orville and Wilbur Wright, this has been a partnership from day one, between the Leadership Group and Mayor Chuck Reed. After two years of hard work, we have lift off.”

All Nippon Airways is the ninth largest airline in the world by revenues and the largest in Japan by passenger numbers. Founded in 1952, it flies today to 76 domestic and international cities in a fleet of 231 aircraft serving a network of 174 routes. ANA has 33,000 employees and operates about 1,000 flights a day. In 2011, it carried 43
million passengers and generated revenues of $17.1 billion.

Mineta San Jose International Airport serves approximately 8.4 million passengers per year with approximately 125 flights a day on nine domestic and international carriers to 29 nonstop destinations.

The airport’s recent $1.3 billion comprehensive modernization project, completed in 2010, makes SJC a technologically advanced airport and the first terminal to be awarded LEED Silver certification for environmental sustainability.

Joan Lowy and Joshua Freed from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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