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First, a battery ignited on a Japan Airlines 787 shortly after it landed at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Jan. 7. 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 were alerted to 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 with U.S. planes on January 16.
It was the first time the Federal Aviation Administration had grounded a whole fleet of planes since 1979, when it ordered the DC-10 out of the sky following a series of fatal crashes.
The FAA eventually approved a plan by Boeing to better insulate the battery’s eight cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system. Once the changes were made, planes started to fly again.
Friday’s fire led many to initially question if that solution was not enough.
"For Boeing’s sake, I hope it’s not the batteries," said Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transpiration. "There was a lot of criticism that the FAA didn’t fully understand the battery issues when they certified the batteries. People got over that, and they kind of thought that was behind them."
If this is a battery-caused fire, "It puts the FAA in a very bad spot."
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