Boeing 787 wiring flaw forces flight recall

British Airways flight attendants pose for photographs July 4 in front of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Heathrow airport near London.
British Airways flight attendants pose for photographs July 4 in front of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Heathrow airport near London.

Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner suffered another setback Wednesday after ANA Holdings Inc., which through it subsidiary All Nippon Airways is the model’s biggest operator, said it discovered wiring defects in the fire-suppression system on three aircraft.

The fault, first detected on a 787 scheduled to depart Tokyo’s Haneda airport Wednesday, would trigger the wrong extinguisher in the event of a fire in one of the two engines, ANA said. Japan Airlines Co. recalled a 787 flying to Helsinki from Tokyo as a precaution, and Boeing said it was investigating the flaw.

“These things happen with a new aircraft,” said Robert Stallard, an analyst at RBC Capital in London. “When the airlines ground the plane or regulators start becoming involved, then it becomes something to watch out for.”

The Boeing 787, which made its commercial debut in 2011, is already under scrutiny after a fire in London last month that U.K.

investigators linked to an emergency beacon. The 787 returned to service with ANA and Japan Airlines on June 1 after a global grounding spurred by a pair of meltdowns in the lithium-ion batteries on the carriers’ jets.

Boeing shares fell $2.07, or 2 percent, to close Wednesday at $104.16. The shares had advanced 41 percent this year through Tuesday.

ANA’s parts were replaced in two of the jets in which the Tokyo-based carrier found the defect, which must have occurred during the manufacturing process, said Megumi Tezuka, a spokesman. The third aircraft was also scheduled to be repaired by the end of the day, she said.

Japan Air brought back the 787 from Helsinki to Narita airport in Tokyo as a precautionary measure after being informed of the new wiring issue by the National Transport Ministry, company spokesman Seiji Takaramoto said.

The carrier subsequently inspected its 787s and found no problems, he said. Among other Dreamliner operators, LOT Polish Airlines SA said its planes are flying as scheduled, while Qatar Airways Ltd. said it has had no problems and Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA said it was unaware of the issue.

Christen David, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings Inc., said she didn’t know at this point whether the airline was inspecting its 787 fleet.

U.S. regulators ordered Dreamliner operators to check emergency radio transmitters for wire damage after a beacon was linked to the July 12 fire in London. The Federal Aviation Administration is working with Boeing to develop instructions for the inspections, the agency said at the time.

Boeing had delivered 73 Dreamliners to 13 customers through Aug. 7, the company said on its website, with more than 29,000 flights flown.

Dreamliner operators resumed services after a three month grounding over the battery fires when authorities approved a redesign including more protection around individual cells to contain overheating. Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise was first to restart flights in April, with the Japanese carriers opting for a four month halt as they took out ads saying the 787 was safe.

Business, Pages 30 on 08/15/2013