Less than two weeks have passed since the Boeing (NYSE:BA) 777 operated by South Korea’s Asiana Airlines crash-landed in San Francisco, and less than one week has passed since flames engulfed an empty Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at London’s Heathrow Airport. Now, Asiana Airlines has grounded another one of its Boeing 777 jets in Los Angeles after an engine began leaking oil.
The leak was initially uncovered Monday as the plane prepared to take off from Los Angeles International Airport, bound for South Korea’s Incheon airport, the airline said. The latest technical difficulty takes place just nine days after the incident at San Francisco International Airport resulted in the deaths of three teenage girls and the injury of more than 180 other passengers and crew.
Both U.S. and South Korean authorities are investigating what caused the accident. Early evidence indicates that the plane was being flown too slowly as it came in to land.
The Boeing 777 that crashed on July 6 had a record of “being one of the safest airliners in the sky,” Kevin Hiatt, president and chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation, told the San Jose Mercury News. Still, a Chicago law firm has taken steps to sue Boeing on behalf of 83 people who were onboard Flight 214, alleging that a malfunction of the plane’s auto-throttle may have caused the crash.
“Accidents are very rare, and this one will be closely looked at,” said Todd Curtis, who worked on safety features of the 777 at Boeing and now runs AirSafe.com, a website that provides information for travelers on safety and security. “There may be industry regulatory changes coming out of it,” he told the San Jose Mercury News.
As for the 787 Dreamliner, investigators continue to look into last week’s fire, but the plane faces no immediate threat of grounding, Europe’s top aviation safety organization, the Germany-based European Aviation Safety Agency, told Bloomberg via email.
So far, investigators have only issued a short statement: The United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Saturday there was no evidence the lithium-ion batteries directly caused the fire — good news for Boeing, which said its fixes to the battery system would prevent further fires. However, that determination has left open a wide range of possible causes that could have varying impact on the jet’s future, including isolated human error or a new design flaw in the Dreamliner’s advanced electrical system, which is one of the plane’s key innovations.
Boeing planes have also suffered several other minor incidents in the past few months. Another Asiana-operated Boeing 777 was delayed in San Francisco on June 2 because of an oil leak in one of its engines, and on July 8, a San Francisco-bound Boeing 777 flown by Japan Airlines turned back to Tokyo after a leak in the hydraulic system that controls flaps was discovered.
Since two battery meltdowns forced regulators in the United States and Japan to ground the Dreamliner fleet in January for three-and-a-half months, Boeing has fought to rebuild trust in the wide-body plane. And while the fire at Heathrow did halt shares’ upward momentum and push them below the $100 level, the company’s stock has gained almost 40 percent this year and it is just slightly below its 52-week high of $108.15.
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