FAA finds Boeing Dreamliner could lose all power, issues maintenance mandate

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The headaches for Boeing over its 787 Dreamliner continue.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday issued a directive mandating “a repetitive maintenance task” for that model of airliner due to issues with its power supply. Specifically, the FAA explained testing revealed that 787s could lose all AC electrical power after being continuously powered for 248 days, a problem that, if left unchecked, would leave an aircrew unable to control the plane.

The order took effect immediately, with the federal agency finding that there’s no good reason to delay the decision.

“The FAA has found that the risk to the flying public justifies waiving notice and comment,” the agency said.

The maintenance mandate was characterized as temporary, until software is developed to resolve the problem.

A Boeing spokesman said its customers learned about this issue and what they need to do to fix it about two weeks before the FAA’s announcement. In fact, “all operators have already completed the off-cycle on fix,” said spokesman Doug Alder Jr.

“All of the airlines have completed the steps they need to take at the moment,” Alder added, “and they have a go-forward plan.”

This marks the latest setback for Boeing over its 787, which debuted in 2011 in Asia and a year later in the United States amid much fanfare. The American manufacturer has boasted that the Dreamliner would save airlines money on fuel because its body consists of lightweight composite materials. Besides its larger size, the new aircraft also featured passenger comforts such as bigger windows, larger overhead bins and better ventilation.

Yet the Dreamliner’s development was marred by production delays and other problems. And there were more issues once the fleet rolled out, including two instances of overheating batteries on a Japan Airlines plane in Boston and an All Nippon Airways jet in Japan.

Those cases prompted the grounding of Boeing’s global 787 fleet, with the FAA announcing in January 2013 that “before further flight, operators … must demonstrate … that the batteries are safe and in compliance.”

By April of that year, the FAA cleared Boeing to make fixes to its battery system, paving the way for the aircraft to resume flying.

Still, problems persisted. This includes reports in January 2014 of smoke on a Dreamliner at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport — an incident Boeing said then “appears to have involved the venting of a single battery cell.”

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a report 11 months later blaming the battery problem on the overheating from an electrical short circuit that may have been caused by manufacturing defects and allegedly unsatisfactory oversight of the manufacturing process by both the FAA and Boeing.

By Greg Botelho

CNN’s Thom Patterson contributed to this report.

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