ANA, the launch customer for the Boeing 787, has grounded its fleet of 17 Dreamliners after an emergency landing and evacuation in Japan on Tuesday. Japan Airlines quickly followed suit with its seven aircraft. The ANA drama was prompted by a battery warning light and what one of the pilots thought was a funny smell. The aircraft left Yamaguchi Airport in western Japan for Haneda, near Tokyo, about 8 a.m. local time, but it was on the ground in Takamatsu 45 minutes later and the 129 passengers and eight crew were hitting the slides. One report said there was smoke in the cockpit and another said a pilot smelled something unusual; ANA was said to be checking whether there was actually any smoke. Nevertheless, the airline promptly grounded the fleet, adding to the considerable pressure already on Boeing to defend the safety of its flagship aircraft.
"We've seen the reports, we're aware of the events and are working with our customer," Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel is reported to have told Reuters. It was the lithium-ion APU battery aboard a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston last week that led to an FAA probe into the airliner and there have been other non-electrical problems reported since. This may be the first time a 787 has been evacuated, however.