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FAA grounds Boeing 787 Dreamliners for safety inspections

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA) sits on the tarmac after an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airpirt in Takamatsu, west of Japan, on Jan. 16, 2013. The FAA announced Wednesday that it was grounding all 787 Dreamliners until they could pass a safety inspection.

The news goes from bad to worse for Boeing. The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded all U.S.-registered Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Since it is a U.S. regulatory agency, the grounding only applies to U.S. airlines. The worry is a fire risk associated with the lithium ion batteries in that aircraft.

The FAA order is called  an “emergency airworthiness directive” and requries that the plane “temporarily cease operations.” 

“Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the batteries are safe,” the agency's written statement read.

"Boeing's out there pushing an envelope with a new airplane with a lot of new technology and it appears they may have pushed slightly too hard in one area," New York Times Matthew Wald said. "I suspect they'll get this cleared up. But for the time being, they've got problems."

It not clear what this means for the hundreds of orders that Boeing has for the 787. For one thing, it's hard to say exactly what's wrong with the batteries. They'll have to continue investigating the components before they know exactly where the design went wrong.

Wald says the stakes are big for Boeing: "You're coming close to betting the company every time you come out with a new airplane."

But he expects they'll figure out a way to fix the problem.

The FAA has grounded many planes before over the years. Wald says that while it's a little unusual to ground a new airplane, it is not unprecedented.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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