Airlines flying Boeing Co's new 787 Dreamliners need to take extra steps to ensure the planes don't have engine failures or fires because of a manufacturing fault in the fuel line, a U.S. regulator said Wednesday.
Improperly assembled parts in Boeing's newest jet could cause the planes to run out of fuel, experience "engine power loss or shutdown, or leaks on hot engine parts that could lead to a fire," the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in issuing a formal rule requiring U.S. carriers to inspect the fuel systems.
The fuel issue first emerged Tuesday, the same day a United Airlines 787 flight with 184 people aboard had to make an emergency landing due to an electrical problem.
While the combined episodes gave Boeing a painful black eye, several analysts said the issues posed little long-term risk for the plane maker, which is speeding up production and designing several new derivative jets to better compete with Airbus. Boeing shares fell just 0.2 percent to $73.87.
"There are an awful lot of new features, new technologies and new manufacturing techniques that have produced an enormous number of teething problems, but so far no show stoppers," said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Virginia-based Teal Group.
"We're seeing headaches, not heart attacks." United said Wednesday that a failed power generator was to blame for the flight from Houston to Newark diverting to New Orleans. It landed safely and there were no injuries.
Five other generators in an aft electrical equipment bay powered the plane after the failure, and there appeared to be no outward signs of trouble, United said.
"The pilots received messages in the cockpit," alerting them to the fault, said Christen David, a United spokeswoman. Boeing said the issue was not related to what caused an electrical fire in the same location aboard a test plane two years ago. In that case, Boeing has said, a foreign object in an electrical panel had caused arcing that led to the fire.
The fuel problem had been a behind-the-scenes issue for Boeing since Japan's All Nippon Airways found a leak on Oct. 23 and reported it to Boeing and the FAA. Boeing had issued a notice on Nov. 11 alerting other early 787 customers, which include Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines LAN Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and Air India.
All Nippon Airways is currently Boeing's biggest 787 operator, owning 16 of the 38 jets delivered