Japan's two leading airlines ground their Boeing 787s fleets after one of the dreamliner passenger jets made an emergency landing, in the latest and most serious of safety scares.

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All Nippon Airways (ANA) said instruments on board a domestic flight indicated a battery error, triggering emergency warnings to the pilots. It said the battery in the forward cargo hold was the same lithium-ion type as one involved in a fire on another dreamliner at a US airport last week.

The carrier grounded all 17 of its 787s, and Japan Airlines Co suspended its 787 flights scheduled for Wednesday. The two carriers operate around half of the 50 dreamliners delivered by Boeing to date.

ANA said its planes could be back in the air as soon as Thursday once checks were completed.

Before we made the emergency landing there was an announcement and the stewardess' voice was shaking, so I thought this was serious. Passenger

Wednesday's incident, described by a transport ministry official as "highly serious" - language used in international safety circles as indicating there could have been an accident - is the latest in a line of mishaps. Fuel leaks, a battery fire, wiring problem, brake computer glitch and cracked cockpit window have all hit the world's first mainly carbon-composite airliner in recent days.

"I think you're nearing the tipping point where they need to regard this as a serious crisis," said Richard Aboulafia, a senior analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia. "This is going to change people's perception of the aircraft if they don't act quickly."

New plane design

The 787, which has a list price of $207m, represents a leap in the way planes are designed and built, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays.

The use of new battery technology is among the cost-saving features of the 787, which Boeing says burns 20 percent less fuel than rival jets using older technology.

But some have suggested Boeing's rush to get planes built after those delays resulted in the recent problems, a charge the company strenuously denies.

Both the US federal aviation administration (FAA) and the national transportation safety board (NTSB) said they were monitoring the latest incident as part of a comprehensive review of the dreamliner announced late last week.

Passengers leaving the ANA flight told local TV there was an odour like burning plastic on the plane as soon as it took off. "There was a bad smell as soon as we started and before we made the emergency landing there was an announcement and the stewardess' voice was shaking, so I thought this was serious," one passenger told TBS TV.

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More nightmares for Boeing

Quicker, quieter and more fuel-efficient, the 787 Dreamliner was touted as Boeing's great new hope to challenge its European rival Airbus, whose A380 Super Jumbo remains the largest passenger plane.
But after a three year production delay and a series of glitches, those plans are in doubt. Earlier this month US aviation regulators took the unprecedented step of launching a review for an aircraft they had originally approved.
That came in the wake of five reported incidents in under a week including an electrical fire, brake problems, reports of cracked windscreens and an oil leak.
With the glitches adding up, technical experts from the US Federal Aviation Administration, who amassed 200,000 hours on testing the jet before giving it the all-clear in August 2011, will once again assess the airliner's design and assembly.
Executives at Boeing have so far remained defiant; insisting that the issues are simply "teething problems". Indeed, Airbus received similar global publicity a year ago after wing cracks in certain planes ratcheted more than £500m in repair bills.
But Boeing will hope it can whether its own storm. There are currently 848 Dreamliner planes ordered around the world, with 49 delivered. Around 1,100 are expected to be delivered over the next decade. In the UK British Airways plan to operate Dreamliners later in 2013, with Virgin and Thomson also awaiting deliveries, while Qatar Airways last month became the first airline to operate regular services to and from Heathrow with the 787.
How these current incidents affect that remains to be seen. So far, recent scares have had no impact on future orders. The Australian carrier Qantas said its order for 15 dreamliners remained unchanged, while Air India said it would talk to parts makers but had no plans to take its six existing dreamliners out of service.

Quicker, quieter and more fuel-efficient, the 787 dreamliner was touted as Boeing's great new hope to challenge its European rival Airbus, whose A380 Super Jumbo remains the largest passenger plane.

But after a three year production delay and a series of glitches, those plans are in doubt. Earlier this month US aviation regulators took the unprecedented step of launching a review for an aircraft they had originally approved.

That came in the wake of five reported incidents in under a week including an electrical fire, brake problems, reports of cracked windscreens and an oil leak.

With the glitches adding up, technical experts from the US Federal Aviation Administration, who amassed 200,000 hours on testing the jet before giving it the all-clear in August 2011, will once again assess the airliner's design and assembly.

Executives at Boeing have so far remained defiant, insisting that the issues are simply 'teething problems'. Indeed, Airbus received similar global publicity a year ago after wing cracks in certain planes ratcheted up repair bills of over £500m.

But Boeing will hope it can weather its own storm. There are currently 848 dreamliner planes ordered around the world, with 49 delivered. Around 1,100 are expected to be delivered over the next decade.

In the UK British Airways plan to operate dreamliners later in 2013, with Virgin and Thomson also awaiting deliveries, while Qatar Airways last month became the first airline to operate regular services to and from Heathrow with the 787.

How these current incidents affect that remains to be seen. So far, recent scares have had no impact on future orders. The Australian carrier Qantas said its order for 15 dreamliners remained unchanged, while Air India said it would talk to parts makers but had no plans to take its six existing dreamliners out of service.

Simon Calder, The Independent's travel editor, said: "Everything that has happened to the 787 pales in comparison with the uncontained engine failure on the Airbus A380 in November 2010 after take off from Singapore.

"Yet today more than 5,000 passengers will step aboard the Airbus A380 at Heathrow and Manchester airports. As the pioneering designers of the Comet found in the Fifties, any new jet has imperfections.

"Thanks to the lessons from past tragedies, these days, they are almost always merely discomfiting rather than disastrous."

Dreamliner: timeline of incidents

4 December 2012
A United Airlines 787 with 184 people aboard makes an emergency landing in New Orleans after reported electrical problems.

5 December
US regulators say there is a manufacturing fault in 787 fuel lines and advises operators to make extra inspections to guard against engine failures.

13 December
Qatar Airways grounds one of its three 787s after finding the same electrical problem that affected the 4 December United flight.

17 December
United confirms finding an electrical problem in a second plane in its 787 fleet.

7 January 2013

Electrical fire breaks out on a Japan Airlines 787 after a battery explodes, letting smoke into the cabin shortly after passengers from Tokyo disembark at Boston's Logan International Airport.

8 January
A fuel leak forces another Japan Airlines 787 to return to its gate only minutes before it is due to take off for Tokyo from Boston. Forty gallons of fuel are reported to have spewed across the Tarmac.

9 January

All Nippon Airways cancels a domestic 787 flight from Yamaguchi prefecture to Tokyo following a glitch in the computer systems that control the jet's brakes.

11 January
All Nippon Airways reports new problems with Dreamliner planes in its domestic fleet. In one instance, a small amount of oil is discovered leaking from a jet. In another case, a flight is cancelled after detection of a crack in the cockpit windshield.

16 January

All Nippon grounds its fleet of 17 Dreamliners when its flight NH 692 from Yamaguchi Ube is forced to land shortly after take-off. Japan Airlines follows suit, saying it would ground its fleet of seven 787s until further notice.

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