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Dreamliner gets off to a rocky start

Aviation experts say that it’s not unusual for a brand-new aircraft type to have a few bugs that need correcting, and that seems to be the case for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as United starts putting them into service.

First, a United 787 had to make an emergency landing in New Orleans on a Houston to Newark flight, a diversion that the airline attributed simply to “a mechanical issue.” Later, the company clarified that the problem was the failure of one of the plane’s six on-board generators, and the aircraft was taken out of service until the part could be replaced and inspected.

The following day, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an order that all operators of 787s must conduct special inspections of the planes to examine what the agency said were improperly assembled engine fuel feed manifold couplings.

The FAA said it had seen reports of fuel leak incidents on two 787s currently in service, although it did not identify the airlines involved. More than three dozen new 787s are in service around the world. The new planes have also been delivered to ANA—which has the largest number at 16—as well as Japan Airlines, LAN, Ethiopian Airlines and Air India.

According to the FAA notice, such fuel leaks, if not corrected, could lead to loss of fuel, engine shutdowns or even fires.

United has taken delivery of three Dreamliners, and has been flying them on short-term schedules around its system before putting them into regular service. The airline is due to operate a 787 flight from Houston to Amsterdam and back December 11-12, and to put a Dreamliner into regular service on its Los Angeles-Tokyo Narita route starting January 3.

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