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Boeing Confident About 787 Despite 'Teething Problems'

United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Darren Booth | CNBC
United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner

A senior Boeing engineer said Wednesday the plane maker has "extreme confidence" in the 787 Dreamliner, despite three of mishaps this week, including a battery fire.

"Clearly there are issues that … we have to work through," Mike Sinnett, vice president and chief project engineer for the Boeing 787, told reporters. "And just like any new airplane program, we work through those issues and we move on. So while we're happy with the level of the performance of the airplane, we're not satisfied until our reliability and our performance is 100 percent."

"We're not happy until we're perfect," he added.

Earlier Wednesday, airlines played down safety concerns over the 787, with Qatar Airways' chief executive dismissing recent mishaps as "teething problems."

Boeing's stock closed up 3.55 percent Wednesday after sinking nearly 5 percent over the previous two days, its biggest such loss in 13 months.

A fuel leak forced a Boeing 787 operated by Japan Airlines to return to the gate at Boston's Logan International Airport on Tuesday, a day after a fire ignited in the cabin on a JAL Dreamliner at the same airport. A firefighter sustained minor injuries.

Boeing said it traced the fire to a lithium ion battery in the planes auxiliary power unit. (Read More: Fire Puts Dreamliner Under Scrutiny.)

The National Transportation Safety Board said an auxiliary power unit battery had severe fire damage, and heat damage was found near the unit in the rear electronics bay. The investigation is continuing. (Read More: After Boeing 787 Fire, Another Dreamliner Has Fuel Leak)

"Nothing that we've seen in this case indicates a relationship to any previous 787 power system events, which involved power panel faults elsewhere in the aft electrical equipment bay," Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said.

In a third incident, Japan's All Nippon Airways canceled a Dreamliner flight scheduled to fly from Yamaguchi prefecture in western Japan to Tokyo on Wednesday due to brake problems.

"Of course there will be teething problems from time to time, but this is foreseen with any new aircraft program," Qatar Airways' Akbar al-Baker told reporters in Doha on Wednesday.

Qatar Airways is the largest customer of the Dreamliner in the Middle East with an order for up to 60 of the aircraft -- 30 firm orders plus an option on acquiring 30 more. It currently has a fleet of five 787 jets.


"Since the first issues we had with our newly delivered airplanes, we've had no other technical issues with the fleet of five Dreamliners we are operating now," Baker added.

Japan Airlines said Wednesday it has no plans to cancel orders for 38 Dreamliners. The airline has ordered a total of 45 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, including seven it is already operating.

Morito Takeda, a second Japan Airlines spokesman, said six of those seven aircraft are flying as usual. The seventh is at Boston's Logan International Airport.

All Nippon Airways, which has placed orders for 66 Dreamliner aircraft including 17 that are already operating, also has no plans to change its orders, said spokesman Etsuya Uchiyama.

The 787 is Boeing's newest plane, first was delivered in late 2011. In November 2010, a test flight had to make an emergency landing after an in-flight electrical fire. The fire delayed flight tests for several weeks while Boeing investigated. (Read More: Boeing's 787 Faces Scrutiny After Several Reports of Mishaps)

Qatar Airways' outspoken chief executive said the incidents at Logan may have been isolated.


"It could be a production issue with one of the components which caused the smoke. I'm sure if it was something serious, the FAA would have grounded airplanes. This was not the case, so it could be that this was an isolated issue."

Baker said he had no plans at the moment to cancel any plane orders with Boeing.

"When we have to start grounding planes, then it becomes an issue and then they (Boeing) have to get their check book out," Baker said.

Baker had earlier said that he would demand compensation from Boeing for grounding aircraft.

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