Japan's Largest Airline Just Grounded Its Entire Fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners

Adam Clark Estes

Wednesday marked another day in Japan and another emergency landing for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This time it's serious, though. Smoke in the cockpit, serious. And as a result, 24 out of the 50 Dreamliners to have come off of the assembly line have been grounded.

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A brand new 787 operated by ANA, Japan's largest airline, left Ube on Wednesday morning headed to Tokyo but had to be diverted after pilots noticed a funny smell in the cockpit. The instrument panel indicated that there was a battery problem, and by the time, they landed safely with the plane's eight crew and 129 passengers, local media spotted smoke in the cockpit and cabin. Japan's Transport Ministry said soon thereafter that it considered this to be a serious incident, one that could have ended in a crash.  They even had to use the emergency slides to get off the plane quickly. Both ANA and Japan Airlines grounded all Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which went into commercial service less than a year ago, until they could figure out what went wrong.

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This is hardly a standalone event, however. In the past week alone, there have been a stunning six incidents involving the 787 including a battery fire on the runway, a cracked windshield, a wiring problem, two fuel leaks and a computer fault that the brakes of one aircraft. Not to be too discerning, but if there's anything you don't want to break on a plane, it's probably on that list. These incidents come after several models suffered engine failures during testing. As Akihiro Ota, Japan's transportation minister, said on Wednesday, "Looking at this from the point of view of average citizens, having these sort of incidents occur seemingly day after day, one could become very uneasy."

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With half of the 787's out of the air, travelers can rest easy for now. The Federal Aviation Administration has meanwhile ordered a safety review of all the planes, as Boeing's stock suffers from the bad press. This was supposed to be their plane of the future, their flagship, their Dreamliner. Instead, it's a just a big, dangerous mess. Oh well, this evidently happens all the time with new planes.