Safety first priority of CAA on Dreamliners

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 09:18 18/01/2013

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The Civil Aviation Authority says Boeing's 787 Dreamliners will not fly in New Zealand's airspace unless safety problems have been resolved first.

The fleet of next-generation passenger aircraft - 10 of which have been ordered by Air New Zealand - has been temporarily grounded by United States aviation authorities after reports of several incidents, including malfunctioning lithium ion batteries causing smoke and fire aboard the jets.

The emergency landing of an All Nippon Airways flight on Wednesday was the last straw for that airline, which grounded its fleet of 787-8 craft. Japan Airlines followed suit, and the grounding was subsequently extended by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to all US-registered Dreamliners.

New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority director Graeme Harris said other national aviation authorities were likely to follow the FAA's lead. The Civil Aviation Authority was "watching the actions and responses to the electrical problems on some 787 aircraft closely".

The authority had been working with Boeing, the FAA and Air New Zealand in the past few years on developing systems to provide safety oversight of Dreamliners once they were flying in New Zealand, he said.

Air New Zealand is set to take delivery of 10 Boeing 787-9 jets in the second half of 2014, but has refused to comment beyond saying it was proceeding with its order.

"Once the Air New Zealand 787s are due to come to New Zealand the CAA will need to be satisfied that any problems have been resolved," Harris said.

The FAA said yesterday that it required carriers using 787s to temporarily cease flying. "Before further flight, operators of US-registered Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the FAA that the batteries are safe.

"The FAA will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the US 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible."

Harris said foreign-registered 787s coming into New Zealand would be subject to safety oversight and approvals issued by their home nation.

"It is likely all operators will follow the FAA action to suspend flying the 787s until they are satisfied that the current problems have been fixed," he said.

The 787, which has a list price of US$207 million (NZ$246 m), represents a leap in the way planes are designed and built, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays.

Some have suggested Boeing's rush to get planes built after those delays caused the recent problems, a charge the company denies.

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

It was that efficiency and greater range that attracted Air New Zealand to the aircraft and any doubts about its ability to fly long-haul, out of range of emergency landing airports, could hurt the national carrier's plans to use the Dreamliner. Fairfax NZ

- The Dominion Post

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