Despite experts’ best efforts to get to the bottom of the mishaps involving Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliners, pinpointing the causes may take a while, leaving the timetable for their return to the skies uncertain.
All Nippon Airways Co., which has more 787s than any other airline, said Thursday it expects a ¥1.4 billion revenue drop in January. It had to cancel around 460 flights after regulators grounded all Dreamliners worldwide following the emergency landing of a 787 on Jan. 16 due to a battery problem that caused smoke in the cockpit.
Nine days earlier, a battery on Japan Airlines Co. 787 caught fire on the ground in Boston.
Although ANA kept intact its full-year earnings forecast for fiscal 2012 ending in March, the carrier suggested it may consider reviewing its 787 strategy if the safety woes drag on. In the longer term, those concerns could have a bigger impact on earnings than the ongoing Senkakus dispute with China, it said.
Japanese and U.S. aviation authorities are focusing mainly on analysis of the charred lithium-ion battery in the ANA Dreamliner, which had to set down at Takamatsu Airport in Kagawa Prefecture.
Aviation experts initially suspected the battery had been overcharged, but the Japan Transport Safety Board said in January that no such signs were found after examining data from the flight recorder.
The experts have widened their scope to other components of the 787, including the electrical system, and the investigations now involve related manufacturers from around the world.
Hajime Tozaki, a Waseda University professor specializing in transport policy, said it may take “up to a year” to determine the cause, given that a variety of innovative technologies were used in the new fuel-efficient jet.
Tozaki said that although Japanese carriers quickly embraced the 787 before other airlines, it may have to slash their earnings forecasts down the road because the planes are “the pillar of their long-term strategies.”
“We’re the company that operates the most 787s in the world, and 35 percent (of the components) for 787s are made by Japanese manufacturers. The most important thing is to do our best to restore trust in the aircraft,” Kiyoshi Tonomoto, ANA’s executive vice president, said Thursday at a press conference.
JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki said at a news conference Tuesday that he hopes that “787s will be back in service as soon as possible,” playing down the possibility of immediately claiming compensation from Boeing.
ANA, which owns 17 Dreamliners, plans to boost its 787 fleet to 55 in fiscal 2017, in order increase profitability by more than ¥10 billion via fuel savings credited to the plane. JAL plans to eventually increase its Dreamliner fleet to 45 planes from seven now.
“(But) the only thing the carriers can really do now is wait,” Waseda University’s Tozaki said.