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Aviation

US aviation administration grounds Boeing Dreamliners

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has temporarily suspended all Dreamliner flights. The news came as Japanese airlines grounded all Boeing 787 flights amid technological malfunctions.

The FAA called on Boeing to reassess the safety of lithium ion batteries used in its long-distance aircraft line on Wednesday.

"Before further flight, operators of US-registered, Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration that the batteries are safe," it said.

In a statement issued shortly after the FAA's announcement, Boeing emphasized its commitment to passenger safety and vowed to investigate the matter.

"Boeing deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on the operating schedules of our customers and the inconvenience to them and their passengers," Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said in the statement.

"We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity. We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service," he said.

A series of technological malfunctions has plagued Dreamliners - the prized innovation of US aircraft maker, Boeing - over the past week. But the FAA took swift action on Wednesday after two incidents raised concerns of the fire hazard posed by the batteries.

A battery error message and reported detection of an unusual odor in the cockpit had forced a Tokyo-bound All Nippon Airways flight to make an emergency landing Wednesday in western Japan. The previous week, smoke filled a Japan Airlines Dreamliner which had just landed in Boston from Tokyo. No passengers were on board at the time of the incident.

The FAA did not provide details on the potential duration of the suspension. The only US company to own Dreamliners is United Airlines, which possesses six of the Boeing 787s.

Lithium batteries, one of the Dreamliner's technological innovations, reportedly use less fuel and are supposed to be more cost-effective for airlines. However, they pose a greater fire hazard. Once ignited, they are difficult to extinguish.

The US' decision came after Japanese airlines All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines - two of Boeing's main customers - grounded all Dreamliner flights.

US Boeing is the main rival of Europe's aviation manufacturer Airbus, which is currently developing the A350, a comparable model to the Boeing 787.

kms/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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