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The Latest Fleet of 787s Is Nothing But Trouble

The new 787 Dreamliner fleet has been plagued with issues, including electrical problems, broken windows, fires and engine failures

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In Japan, passengers of 787 planes are out of luck: the country has grounded the entire fleet. The Guardian reports:

Japan’s largest airline, ANA, and its competitor JAL have each grounded their entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners after an emergency landing due to a smoke alarm in the cockpit – the most dramatic of a spate of incidents involving the troubled aircraft over the past week and since its inception.

All Nippon Airways said the plane had been evacuated, with its eight crew and all 129 passengers exiting safely on inflatable slides. Instruments in the cockpit indicated there had been a battery malfunction and the pilot had noticed a strange smell.

This isn’t the first incident with the 787, as The Guardian alludes to. In fact, the Dreamliner has had all sorts of problems. The Mercury News lists out the incidents since the fleet’s release, including but not limited to a broken engine in a preflight test, electrical problems that forced an emergency landing, an exploding battery, brake problems, and a cracked cockpit window.

Basically, things are not looking good for the mega-plane. So should passengers worry? After all, American Airlines has several Dreamliners in its fleet. Forbes says not yet:

No, says Charles “Les” Westbrooks, Associate Professor of Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. “In aviation we have learned that accidents are caused by a series of events rather than any one catastrophic event. Because of this we have ‘safety stand downs’ when events are happening in succession so as to break the chain of events which could lead to an accident.”

These sorts of issues, he says, are not uncommon with any new technology, particularly in aviation. “If you will remember, the Airbus 380 had cracks in its wings and exploding engines.” Westbrooks likens issues with these new, sophisticated planes to the ones Apple had after the launch of the IPhone 4.

And it’s not like these planes haven’t been tested. The Los Angeles Times says:

The move came despite an “unprecedented” certification process for the 787 in which FAA technical experts logged 200,000 hours of work over nearly two years and flew on numerous test flights, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. There were more than a dozen new special conditions developed during the certification because of the Dreamliner’s innovative design.

But despite all those tests, Boeing just can’t seem to keep these accidents from grounding their planes.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The 86-Year-Old Company that Still Designs Your In-Flight Experience
A Map of Every Passenger Plane in the Skies at This Instant

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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