Investigators probe Boeing 787 plane’s battery maker


Journalists stand in front of the headquarters of Japan’s battery maker GS Yuasa, the firm that made the battery installed in Boeing’s Dreamliners worldwide, in Kyoto, Japan. — AFP

Tokyo/Kyoto: US and Japanese aviation safety officials investigating problems with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner visited the headquarters of the plane's battery maker on Monday, seeking clues into why one of the technologically advanced aircraft made an emergency landing last week.

A spokesman for GS Yuasa Corp, which makes batteries for the 787, said the company was fully cooperating with the investigation, and its engineers were working with the officials from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Japan's Civil Aviation Bureau (CAB) at the company's compound in Kyoto, where it makes airplane batteries.

CAB official Tatsuyuki Shimazu told reporters the investigating team had been briefed by GS Yuasa and had toured the plant, looking at battery design, production and quality. The Japanese investigation at the plant will continue today on a more detailed level, including tracking battery batch numbers and production dates, he said.

Authorities around the world last week grounded the new lightweight Dreamliner, and Boeing halted deliveries after a problem with a lithium-ion battery prompted an All Nippon Airways 787 into the emergency landing at Takamatsu airport during a domestic flight. Earlier this month, a similar battery caught fire in a Japan Airlines' 787 parked at Boston Logan International Airport.

Expanded probe
US safety investigators on Sunday ruled out excess voltage as the cause of the Boston battery fire on January 7, and said they were expanding their probe to look at the battery's charger and the jet's auxiliary power unit. The battery is one part of the 787's complex electrical system, built by French company Thales.  "Results have shown the battery was abnormal in both the Boston and Takamatsu (incidents). They were the most damaged,"  

More flights cancelled
The grounding of the Dreamliner, an advanced carbon-composite plane with a list price of $207 million, has forced ANA to cancel 151 domestic and 26 international flights scheduled for Jan. 23-28, affecting more than 21,000 passengers, the airline said Monday. The cancellations add to the 72 flights scheduled for January 19-22 that ANA called off last week. ANA, which flies the most Dreamliners of any airline, said it will announce on Thursday its plans on flight cancellations for dates from January 29.

ANA said it had not yet decided whether to seek compensation from Boeing for losses as a result of the 787's grounding. "At this point we're concentrating on getting the Dreamliner back in service, rather than considering requesting compensation," said spokesman Ryosei Nomura. 

Japan is the biggest market to date for the Dreamliner, with JAL and ANA flying 24 of the 50 passenger jets that Boeing has delivered.

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