Bloomberg News

Boeing 787 Fuel Leaks Spur FAA to Require Jet Inspections

December 04, 2012

Boeing Co. (BA:US)’s new 787 Dreamliners must be inspected after fuel leaks on two planes were traced to manufacturing errors, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said.

The airworthiness directive, the first for the 787 since it entered service last year, will be issued today and require checks of fuel-line connectors for an “unsafe condition,” the FAA said on the Federal Register’s website. Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. both said they had repaired planes because of the fault.

The leaks, attributed to improperly installed couplings, could cause a plane to run out of fuel, an engine-power loss or a fire, the FAA said. Chicago-based Boeing issued a similar recommendation on Nov. 25, advising carriers to complete an inspection within seven days, according to the FAA. The planemaker delivered 33 Dreamliners, the first jetliner made chiefly of composite materials, through October.

Inspections are finished on about half of the 787s handed over so far, and Boeing is “taking appropriate steps to ensure proper installation on airplanes in production,” said Lori Gunter, a company spokeswoman. The couplings are in the pylons that support the jet’s two engines.

The FAA is requiring partial checks within seven days and what it estimates to be a full 10-hour, $2,712 inspection and potential repair within 21 days. It didn’t identify the 787s with the leaks beyond saying that they weren’t flown by a U.S. carrier.

ANA, JAL

All Nippon found and repaired the fault in “several” 787s, said Youichi Uchida, a spokesman. The carrier, the first Dreamliner operator, has a fleet of 16. Japan Air fixed two of its six 787s, said Kazunori Kidosaki, a spokesman. The two Tokyo-based airlines both said they no longer had any problems because of the fault. All Nippon delayed a flight in October because of a leak, Uchida said.

Boeing will “do a thorough evaluation as part of our internal process,” said Gunter, who declined to say whether there had been any incidents with the two Dreamliners in question or how the flaw was detected.

She also wouldn’t say whether the assembly mistakes occurred at Boeing’s wide-body plant in Everett, Washington, or at a newer factory making 787s in North Charleston, South Carolina, nor would she comment on how the errors occurred.

United Emergency

Yesterday’s emergency landing of a United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL:US) 787 because of an unspecified mechanical issue isn’t related to the fuel-leak directive, Gunter said.

United became the first U.S. airline flying the plane with a flight on Nov. 4 to the carrier’s headquarters city, Chicago, from Houston. The incident yesterday involved a flight to New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport from Houston.

The 787 was 3 1/2 years late in making its commercial debut, after Boeing struggled with the composite materials and new manufacturing system that relies more on suppliers. Other manufacturing errors have been found during the Dreamliner’s development and entry into service.

In 2009, Boeing had to patch up several sections of about two dozen planes after finding tiny wrinkles in parts of the composite fuselages made by an Italian supplier.

Debris was left in the fuel tanks of a 787 test jet being built in January 2010, the same year that flaws in the tail sections were found in June and debris in an electrical panel led to an in-flight fire in November that grounded the entire test fleet for six weeks.

An engine component on a 787 fractured in July, spewing shards of metal out of the plane as it prepared for its first flight in South Carolina.

To contact the reporters on this story: Susanna Ray in Seattle at sray7@bloomberg.net; Alan Levin in Washington at alevin24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net; Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net


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Companies Mentioned

  • BA
    (Boeing Co/The)
    • $122.32 USD
    • -0.74
    • -0.6%
  • UAL
    (United Continental Holdings Inc)
    • $45.84 USD
    • -0.71
    • -1.55%
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