Dreamliner groundings spread amid battery fears

Europe, Japan and India have joined the United States in grounding Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner.

An incident involving battery failure caused one of the Dreamliner passenger jets to make an emergency landing in Japan on Wednesday.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday it would temporarily ground Boeing's newest commercial airliner and insisted airlines would have to demonstrate the lithium ion batteries were safe before they could resume flying. It gave no details on when that might happen.

It is the first such action against a US-made passenger plane since the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was grounded in 1979 after a deadly crash in Chicago, analysts said.

Japanese Transport Ministry Vice Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said the grounding was for an indefinite period, and India's aviation regulator said it was unclear when the aircraft would return to service.

In Wednesday's incident, All Nippon Airways Co Ltd said instruments aboard a domestic flight indicated a battery error, triggering emergency warnings. The incident was described by a transport ministry official as "highly serious" _ language used in international safety circles as indicating there could have been an accident.

A spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency said the region would follow the US grounding order.

Poland's LOT Airlines is the only European airline currently operating the 787.

Boeing said it was confident the 787 was safe and it stood by the plane's integrity.

"Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible," chief executive Jim McNerney said. "The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities.

"We will make available the entire resources of The Boeing Company to assist," he said.

Sorajak Kasemsuvan, president of Thai Airways International (THAI), said the airline does not operate Boeing 787 aircraft but it has ordered eight of them.

The first plane is set to be delivered late next year. He said THAI has not reviewed the order, as there is still plenty of time for the problem to be addressed.

"There are no planes of this type in THAI's fleet. Do not panic," he said. "We should wait for a conclusion on what has caused the problem.

"If there is a serious concern, we will discuss our response," Mr Sorajak said. "If it can be solved, there should be no problem. There is time for THAI as the delivery is not imminent."

He added the Boeing 787 was free of problems in the US and other countries.

Chokchai Panyayong, THAI senior executive vice-president for strategy and business development, said Boeing should be able to solve the problem before delivering aircraft to THAI.

Suvarnabhumi airport director Wilaiwan Nadwilai said the Boeing 787 was not used by any flights visiting Suvarnabhumi airport.

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Writer: Bangkok Post & Reuters