All aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner… today?

787 Arrival at Wisconsin Airventure 2011
787 Arrival at Wisconsin Airventure 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you Google number “787”, chances are you’ll find reports on issues involving Boeing’s newest airliner since the beginning of the month. So far, these problems are triggering scrutiny from the media and obviously causing an amount of concern for certain passengers. I remember one particular case of a frequent flyer making a comparison between new planes and new cars and suggesting to “wait a year or two to get all the ‘recalls’ sorted out”. Is it worth waiting a year or two indeed? First, let’s recap what happened so far this month…

  • January 7: At Logan International Airport in Boston, firefighters were called to put out a blaze in the auxiliary power unit (APU) of a Japan Airlines 787 that had just arrived from Tokyo Narita Airport (flight JL007). The airline issued a statement confirming no passengers or crew were injured, as they had already disembarked, and that the return flight to Tokyo (JL008) was cancelled.
  • January 8: Also in Boston, another Japan Airlines 787 preparing to take-off for Tokyo (JL008) experienced a fuel leak of approximately 40 gallons (±150 litres). Again, the fire department was called, but this time, the flight left four hours later.
  • January 9: Another Japanese 787 operator, ANA, cancelled a flight (NH698) from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Yamaguchi due to a “computer bug” indicating a problem with the brakes, says the Associated Press.
  • January 9: On one of its Dreamliners, United Airlines “found a wiring problem” involving the APU, says Reuters, quoting a report from the Wall Street Journal.
  • January 11: A crack appeared in the cockpit windshield of a ANA 787 flying from Haneda to Matsuyama (flight NH585). The aircraft continued to its final destination and made a safe landing; however the return flight to Haneda (NH590) was cancelled, says the New York Times. The same source indicates a minor oil leak was found on another ANA 787 that had just landed at Miyazaki Airport from Haneda. The aircraft was checked and proceeded as scheduled after a delay of less than an hour.
  • January 11: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a “comprehensive review of the Boeing 787 critical systems” to be conducted jointly with the manufacturer, Boeing.
  • January 13: The Associated Press reported that during an inspection, JAL discovered a 26.5-gallon (100-litre) fuel leak on a 787 that happened to be the same airframe involved in the January 7 incident in Boston.

What do you make of this list of problems involving the Boeing 787? Per CNN, aviation experts claim that new planes “do encounter problems after they launch”. On All Things 787, blogger Uresh says that there has been a “media frenzy” since the January 7 fire. The Aviation Herald even refers to “an unbelievable and unjustified hysteria throughout global media”.

Do these incidents make you lose confidence on Boeing’s newest jet? Simply put: would you feel comfortable flying the 787 today? Or would you rather “wait a year or two”?

UPDATE (Jan. 16, 2013): ANA and JAL ground their 787 fleet


6 thoughts on “All aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner… today?”

  1. I think that the media, and it’s spread causes most of hysteria. I’ve been on flights that took of 1 hour late, because of technical issues, they don’t tell us more, or we can’t read in the news later what actually caused the delay, some of those problems may be even worse than what the 787’s are having now. But since it’s a new jet, if a screw falls out, it makes news. If an old jumbo jet’s engine needs fixing, it’s not news anymore, because it’s old, and aging? I personally think, that the media is responsible for what makes news, and how they portray it. I’m no aircraft expert, but a fuel leak sounds scary, but what if statistically those have been happening on other jets? that we don’t know about? because they don’t make a news article? just my two cents 🙂

    1. @aliencoder: You certainly have a point, but in the end, it’s the paying customers that make the decision to fly or not to fly the 787. This has probably played a role in the latest decision by ANA and JAL to ground their 787s.

      1. The problem is paying customers don’t get a choice when they are on the plane, and are told to hold their breath, we have a technical problem, and no more info is given. Being pro-active is a good thing, no doubt, but is it realistic?

  2. I’m scheduled to fly my first 787 trip on February 6th and I feel just fine. People are usually pretty bad about judging risk in general anyway. They may worry about flying on a 787 but not about driving their car because they feel in control when driving..

    1. @spinalcrackerbox: You’re absolutely right; when people are not in control, they don’t necessarily feel safe. I hope you have a pleasant flight on the 787. Don’t hesitate to come back and comment on it 🙂

      1. All of United’s 787 have been grounded now. This may still be worked out by February 6th, otherwise, I guess the LAX – NRT flight will be on a 777 or even a 747, I guess.

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