WASHINGTON (ABC News/Staff Reports) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the grounding of Boeing 787 until their operators prove that batteries on the planes are safe. Several planes operated by overseas airlines have run into recent trouble, the latest because of a feared battery fire on board. The FAA order applied to the six 787s being flown by United Airlines, which will need to prove to the FAA that there is no battery fire risk on those planes.
"Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the batteries are safe and in compliance," the FAA said in a statement today. "The FAA will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible."
Rockford's Hamilton Sunstrand produces several components for the aircraft, including electrical components, but the specific battery problems have been traced to a Japanese manufacturer. A Hamilton-Sundstrand spokesperson says the company is prepared to fully cooperate with the FAA investigation if asked.
The FAA's "emergency airworthiness directive" came after two Japanese airlines grounded their Boeing 787 Dreamliners following a forced emergency landing today. An emergency airworthiness directive is one that requires an operator to fix or address any problem before flying again. United Airlines responded tonight with a statement: "United will immediately comply with the Airworthiness Directive and will work closely with the FAA and Boeing on the technical review as we work toward restoring 787 service. We will begin reaccommodating customers on alternate aircraft."
All Nippon Airways (ANA) said a battery warning light and a burning smell were detected in the cockpit and the cabin, forcing the Dreamliner, on a domestic flight, to land at Takamatsu Airport in Japan. The plane landed safely about 45 minutes after it took off and all 128 passengers and eight crew members had to evacuate using the emergency chutes. Two people sustained minor injuries on their way down the chute, Osamu Shinobe, ANA senior executive vice president, told a news conference in Tokyo.
ANA and its rival, Japan Airlines (JAL), subsequently grounded their Dreamliner fleets. ANA operates 17 Dreamliner planes, while JAL has seven in service. Both airlines said the Dreamliner fleet would remain grounded at least through Thursday.
ANA said the battery in question during today's incident was the same lithium-ion type battery that caught fire on board a JAL Dreamliner in Boston last week. Inspectors found liquid leaking from the battery today, and said it was "discolored" Japan's transport ministry categorized the problem as a "serious incident" that could have led to an accident. John Hansman, an MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics, said, "If this was an actual fire, that's a major problem. And it would be a major problem even if nothing happened over the past week."
The FAA ordered a comprehensive review of the 787's design in a news conference Jan. 11 with Boeing. But the agency assured the public that the 787s were safe to continue flying while they looked into the fleet's design and safety measures. After the latest incident, but before the FAA airworthiness directive, Boeing said, "We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies."
The Japanese Transport Ministry dispatched its own inspectors to Takamatsu Airport today. A spokesman said the Transport Safety Board and Civil Aviation Bureau will conduct separate investigations.
Manabu Tanaka, who was on the ANA flight today, said he smelled something burning about 20 minutes after takeoff. "I knew the plane was new -- so I thought maybe the smell had something to do with that," Tanaka said. "All of a sudden, I felt the plane drop. It happened about two or three times. With the smell, and the turbulence I began to get really concerned."
MIT's Hansman said, "Clearly, people are very jumpy and they're nervous. I think that the review that's going on now will settle things down."