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Current as of 24/10/14 06:20AM NZST

Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Air NZ 'committed' to 787s despite grounding

Safety regulators in the United States have grounded all Boeing 787 Dreamliners until batteries onboard are proved safe.

In a statement the Federal Aviation Administration said because of the potential battery fire risk United States airlines must "temporarily cease operations."

United Airlines is currently the only US airline operating the 787, with six airplanes in service but overseas authorities generally follow the lead of the FAA to cover fleets operating in their own countries.

Two Japanese airlines yesterday voluntarily grounded the planes after a battery problem.

Before the FAA announcement, Air New Zealand said it "remains committed" to the Boeing 787 despite problems plaguing the aircraft that led to its grounding in Japan.

The New Zealand airline has ordered 10 of the next model of the Dreamliner, the first of which is due for delivery around the middle of next year.

Asked about Air New Zealand's view of the recent incidents and what it had heard from Boeing, a spokeswoman said: "Air New Zealand remains committed to our aircraft orders."

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines grounded all their 787s for safety checks following a second fire-related incident in two weeks involving the 787's lithium-ion batteries.

An ANA plane made and emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan after a battery warning light came on and pilots detected a burning smell.

An inspection found leaking electrolyte from the battery and burn marks around it. The lithium ion battery is below and slightly behind the cockpit, and experts have said its electrolyte is flammable.

Japan's transport ministry categorised it as a "serious incident" that could have led to an accident. The United States Federal Aviation Authority is also investigating the 787 critical systems, including design, manufacture and assembly after the battery incidents and fuel leaks in other aircraft during the past month.

The FAA statement said: "In addition to the continuing review of the aircraft's design, manufacture and assembly, the agency also will validate that 787 batteries and the battery system on the aircraft are in compliance with the special condition the agency issued as part of the aircraft's certification.

"The FAA will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the US 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible."

So far 50 of the planes have been delivered. ANA has 17, Japan Airlines, seven, Air India, six, United Continental Holdings , six, Qatar Airways, five,

Ethiopian Airlines, four, LAN Airlines (Chile), three and LOT Polish Airlines, with two.

The groundings in Japan pulled Boeing shares down sharply on Wall Street last night, dragging the Dow Jones industrial average lower.

Boeing's stock sank US$2.60 to $74.34, a loss of 3 per cent.

Air New Zealand's 787-9 model is about 6m longer than the plane now flying and is capable of carrying up to 40 more passengers and flying almost 700km further.

Delays of at least three years have forced the airline to keep flying older aircraft on routes it would use the 787 although its Boeing 777s service the important North American market.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

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