The Boeing 787 Dreamliner will face more scrutiny today as the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to order a comprehensive review of the plane's design, critical systems and manufacturing.
FAA officials have scheduled a news conference for today, during which they plan to announce the agency's intention to perform a special review of the carbon-fiber plane, according to sources.
The latest incident involving the 787 occurred overnight when a 3-foot-long crack appeared in the cockpit window of an All Nippon Airlines 787 flying in Japan.
In addition to that incident, another Dreamliner's electrical power system caught fire earlier this week at the gate at Boston's Logan airport on a Japan Airlines flight.
"This is a newer type of a battery that hasn't been, basically, looked at in any terms of faults," Kevin Hiatt, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, said. "It's a very good battery, and we're not sure what happened there."
The 787 gets better fuel mileage than standard jetliners because it's made of carbon fiber instead of aluminum. Heavier hydraulic controls on the aircraft have also been replaced with light-weight electronics. It's more sophisticated, more powerful and more complicated.
While the Dreamliner has had other minor glitches, the electrical hitch in the auxiliary power unit, or APU, was serious enough to catch the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA and aviation experts.
"I'm concerned about the aircraft when it comes to this APU fire and battery situation," Hiatt said. "The rest of the issues are normal teething pains."
The plane will not be grounded and will continue to fly during the review, sources said.
United, which flies the only six 787s among domestic carriers, says it has no plans to take its Dreamliners out of service.
Boeing says it has "extreme confidence in the 787," and it is 100 percent "safe to fly."