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Then, this month, all the progress came to a jarring halt.
First, a battery ignited on a Japan Airlines 787 shortly after it landed at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Passengers had already left the plane, but it took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze.
Problems also popped up on other planes. There were fuel and oil leaks, a cracked cockpit window and a computer glitch that erroneously indicated a brake problem.
Then a 787 flown by Japan’s All Nippon Airways made an emergency landing after pilots learned of battery problems and detected a burning smell. Both Japanese airlines grounded their Dreamliner fleets. The FAA, which just days earlier insisted that the plane was safe, did the same for U.S. planes.
Each new aircraft comes with problems. The A380 had its own glitches, including an in-flight engine explosion that damaged fuel and hydraulic lines and the landing flaps. But the unique nature of the 787 worries regulators.
American and Japanese investigators have yet to determine the cause of the problems, and the longer the 787 stays grounded, the more money Boeing must pay airlines in penalties.
"It’s been a very expensive process, and it’s not going to let up anytime soon," said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group. "At this point, the aircraft still looks very promising. I don’t think anybody is talking about canceling orders but people are nervous about the schedule."
As investigators try to figure out the cause of the plane’s latest problems the world finds itself in a familiar position with the Dreamliner: waiting.
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at smayerowitz(at)ap.org.
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