Travellers ‘worried’ by Dreamliner glitches: Japan minister

Tokyo: Japan’s transport minister said Tuesday that ministry officials had launched a probe of Boeing’s Dreamliner after a series of problems with the high-tech aircraft left travellers “enormously worried”.

The ministry said late Monday it had chosen a team of experts to examine a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines (JAL) that suffered two fuel leaks in less than a week.

A series of high-profile incidents over the last week are the latest problems to dog the aircraft, after production glitches delayed delivery of the first plane to All Nippon Airways (ANA) by three years.

JAL and rival ANA, Japan’s two biggest airlines, are among Boeing’s most important clients for the Dreamliner, with a combined more than 100 planes either already delivered or on order, in deals worth billions of dollars.

Problems bloomed last week with a fire on a JAL flight after it landed in Boston, the fuel leaks, and a cracked cockpit windshield that grounded one flight in Japan.

The Japanese probe comes after US regulators on Friday announced an in-depth safety review of the plane.

“I think the Japanese people have become enormously worried after hearing almost every day” about problems with the Dreamliner, Transport Minister Akihiro Ota told a regular news briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday.

“It is important for us as the transport ministry to take a proactive approach and get a full grasp of the issue in order to provide a sense of safety and comfort to the public,” he added.

The Dreamliner has been lauded by Boeing for a high-tech composite fibre body that reduces weight and improves fuel efficiency.

In July, test engine trouble was the subject of a probe by the US National Transportation Safety Board. The same month ANA said it was grounding five Dreamliners for repairs because of a defect in the Rolls-Royce engine.

In February, Boeing said about 55 Dreamliners were at risk of developing a fuselage problem.

Undeterred, ANA said in September it was ordering 11 more 787s in a deal with a list price of around $2.68 billion that will eventually take its fleet of Dreamliners to 66.

ANA shares on Tuesday rose 0.54 percent to 185 yen in Tokyo while Japan Airlines was down 0.68 percent at 3,610 yen.

The two airlines faced more problems with the heavy snowfall that hit Tokyo on Monday, cancelling more than 460 domestic flights.

On Tuesday a total 37 domestic flights were cancelled and dozens of others were delayed.

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