FAA, Japan order new Boeing jets grounded

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WASHINGTON -- The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of the trouble-plagued Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet yesterday "to address a potential battery fire risk" after a burning smell forced a Japanese airliner to make an emergency landing.

The FAA ordered airlines to prove that lithium-ion batteries in the plane, which went into service in late 2011, "are safe and in compliance," according to an emailed statement. While United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier now operating the 787s -- it has six of them -- most other countries follow the FAA's lead in aviation safety issues.

Two Japanese airlines -- All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines -- voluntarily grounded their 24 Dreamliners earlier in the day.

Only days ago, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared the plane safe despite a series of incidents that have heightened safety concerns.

ANA said pilots on a flight yesterday detected a burning smell and saw a cockpit alert showing battery problems. They hurriedly landed at Takamatsu airport in western Japan, and passengers rode emergency slides off the plane. Japan's transport ministry categorized it as a "serious incident" that could have led to an accident.

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ANA said an inspection found leaking electrolyte from the battery and burn marks around it. The battery is below and slightly behind the cockpit, and experts have said its electrolyte is flammable.

On Jan. 7, the battery near the rear of a Japan Airlines 787 burned shortly after the plane landed at Boston Logan and passengers had gotten off. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put it out. That fire prompted investigations by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Boeing said before the FAA announcement that various technical problems are to be expected in the early days of any model.

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