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Dreamliner Unlikely to Be Grounded, Analysts Tell CNBC

Friday, 11 Jan 2013 | 4:50 PM ET
Boeing 787 Under FAA Scrutiny
CNBC's Phil LeBeau reports recent technical problems have prompted a government probe of the aircraft. And Michael Boyd, The Boyd Group president, discusses why he doesn't think this is a big problem for Boeing.

The Federal Aviation Administration's special review of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is significant but not so unusual that the new jet is in danger of being grounded, airline analysts told CNBC Friday.

Michael Huerta, the FAA head, said Friday he's confident the Boeing 787 is safe, but he remains concerned about recent incidents, including a fire and a fuel leak earlier this week.

At the same news conference, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared: "I believe this plane is safe and I would have absolutely no reservations about boarding one of these planes and taking a flight,

Despite the announcement, Boeing's stock closed down by 2.5 percent Friday.

The 787 will remain in service while the FAA looks into the plane's power system. The comprehensive review, announced at Huerta's news conference, will examine the design and manufacturing process and could take weeks. (Read More: FAA: Boeing 787 is Safe Despite Fire and Other Mishaps)

"This has to be put into context," Carter Copeland of Barclays Capital said in a "Squawk Box" interview before the review was announced. "The 787 has had significantly fewer in-flight diversions, significantly fewer shutdowns than we saw with the 777 in the mid-'90s."

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by United Airlines takes off at LAX
Getty Images
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by United Airlines takes off at LAX

But on Friday, there were two more issues with the Dreamliner. All Nippon Airways said one of the planes landed safely in Japan after a cockpit window crack.

"Cracks appear a few times every year in other planes as well, and we do not see this as a sign of a fundamental problem with the aircraft," an ANA official told CNBC Friday. "We are confident of the safety of the Dreamliner and currently have no plan to conduct any actions to our remaining 787s and will liaise with Boeing and comply with any further instructions from the relevant authorities."

A separate ANA Dreamliner flight was found to be leaking oil from an engine after it landed Friday.

These incidents follow two others earlier this week, one of which was a battery fire Monday that caused damage to an empty Japan Airlines 787 on the ground in Boston. A day later there, another JAL Dreamliner spilled 40 gallons of fuel onto the taxiway.

(Read More: Dreamliner Glitches: How Serious Are the Problems?)

"Will this hurt Boeing? Not in the long-term," Michael Boyd, aviation analyst for The Boyd Group, told CNBC Friday. "This is just one part of Boeing's business. When you look at the rest of it, they're a really strong company."

Boyd said that Boeing and certain airlines could be hurt if the Dreamliner were to be grounded. "Airlines like United and American, it's those kind of carriers that have looked at whole new revenue streams that could be generated by this new airplane. If those revenue streams aren't there, they're going to have to restructure themselves," he said.

The Dreamliner made its commercial flight debut in late-2011, following a series of production delays. It's the world's first carbon-composite jet. With a price tag of $207 million each, Boeing has sold nearly 900 of them and delivered 46.

The use of electric power to run on-board functions is one of the biggest innovations, which makes the new 787s lighter and more fuel efficient. "You get probably 2 to 3 percent fuel savings by going all electric," Copeland of Barclays said.

The system is powered by generators attached to the engines and powerful lithium-ion batteries, like the one that caught on fire in Boston. The maker of those batteries, GS Yuasa of Japan, said it's looking into that fire and cooperating with U.S. officials.

Boeing has said that it stands by the Dreamliner and the use of these batteries. Engineers from the company will be working side-by-side with the FAA as the agency conducts its review.

(Read More: Boeing Confident About 787 Despite 'Teething Problems')

—Phil LeBeau reports on aviation and autos; follow him on Twitter @Lebeaucarnews

Follow Matthew J. Belvedere on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC

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9202.T
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UAL
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6674.T
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