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Boeing 787 Dreamliner glitches: How serious are the problems? (+video)

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner owned by Japan Airlines began spewing smoke in Boston Monday. Another leaked fuel Tuesday. Experts say the rollout of any new airliner can be fraught with glitches.

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Boeing faces a short term public-relations battle after a string of problems with its new 787 Dreamliner jet, but experts suggest that, so far, the glitches don't appear to be anything out of the ordinary for a new and highly complex aircraft.

While the cause of some of the problems is still unclear – and shares of the aerospace giant have fallen 2.6 percent in value – experts expect the episodes to be little more than a blip in the road.

“This should be no surprise whatsoever,” says Andrew Thomas, author of “Soft Landing: Airline Industry Strategy, Service, and Safety,” in an e-mail. “Every new complex collection of systems – and the Dreamliner is certainly that – will experience unknowns."

He suggests that "the magnitude, scale, and scope of the supply chain involved; the number of parts and systems; and the just-in-time nature of the manufacturing process guarantees that, like almost every other human endeavor, there will be imperfections and errors.”

This could be particularly true in the case of the 787 because it has so many new features – from the lighter, composite fuselage and wings to the electrical circuits that run the cabin to the lithium batteries that power them.

"This is basically an all electric airplane,” says Rob Mark, publisher of, in an e-mail.

But he and others say the recent glitches are likely to be dealt with in short order. “The two incidents so far don’t sound like bad design,” he adds.

Besides the Japan Airlines plane that began spewing smoke while at Boston’s Logan Airport Monday, there was a second Japan Airlines 787 that leaked fuel in Boston on Tuesday. Last month, a United Airlines 787 from Houston to Newark, N.J., had to be diverted because of electrical problems. Boeing has a backlog of more than 800 orders for the plane, and there are no indications that any have been canceled.


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