Qatar Airways grounds Dreamliners
by Martin Rivers — 1 February 2013
The worldwide grounding of Boeing 787 Dreamliners in January – triggered by a spate of security scares centering on lithium-ion battery fires – has created uncertainty about an outstanding order by Qatar Airways (QA) for 55 more of the aircraft, including 25 firm purchases.
The Qatari flag carrier already operates five of the aircraft, having received its first unit in November 2012. It was among eight airlines forced to suspend 787 flights after emergency airworthiness directives were issued by regulatory bodies in the United States, Europe and Japan. The other affected carriers are United Airlines, Poland’s LOT, Chile’s LAN, Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airways (ANA), Air India and Ethiopian Airlines. Media interest in the Dreamliner’s difficulties has grown steadily since 7 January 2013, when a fire erupted on a parked JAL 787 in Boston after a battery explosion. That followed two largely unreported electrical fires on the QA and United Airlines fleets in December 2012. Industry experts initially downplayed talk of design flaws in the aircraft, which entered service in 2011 after years of delays. But following an emergency landing by an ANA 787 on 15 January – during which a battery malfunction emitted smoke into the cockpit – the Japan Transport Safety Board swiftly ordered the grounding of all JAL and ANA 787s. Its emergency directive was followed by a similar order from America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 16 January, which was in turn adopted by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on 17 January. Though not bound by the directives, QA – along with LAN, Air India and Ethiopian Airlines – voluntarily withdrew their 787s from service, leaving all 49 Dreamliners in operation across the globe grounded.
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