Should You Avoid Flying on Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” Aircraft?

A United Airlines Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft is parked at C Concourse at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in October of 2012. Photograph courtesy of FlyerTalk member ms_go.

A Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft operated by United Airlines was diverted to New Orleans on its way from Houston to Newark yesterday due to a mechanical issue.

FlyerTalk member drowelfwho was a passenger on United Airlines flight 1174 — witnessed that the electrical power reportedly “flickered a couple of times” approximately 75 minutes into the flight before aircraft number 3902 took “a long right hand turn” as the audio video on demand in-flight entertainment unit showed the aircraft headed to New Orleans before the diversion was officially announced. FlyerTalk members not only were able to monitor the whereabouts of the flight, but also were able to see which aircraft replaced it for the continuation of the flight to Newark.

This incident is apparently not the first time a United Airlines Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft has had electrical issues. For example, FlyerTalk member avi8tir reports the following:

“Wow, the 787 isnt having very good luck with UA. My flight on 12/1 got swapped SFO-IAH…. and (I know its an FA talking) but he told me they’ve having tons of electrical issues and to avoid the 787 for a couple months until they work them out. I’ve heard story after story of aircraft swaps the last couple of weeks!”

FlyerTalk member uni3052 also reports mechanical issues had grounded a United Airlines Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft before a flight from Houston to San Francisco.

Spokespeople for both Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways both said they had repaired Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft because of fuel leaks apparently attributed to improperly installed couplings which could cause an aircraft to experience a loss of power to the engine, a fire, or run out of fuel — disputing the claim of one FlyerTalk member that “many 787s have been running fine in and out of Japan for many months.” As a result, the United States Federal Aviation Administration reportedly ordered that all Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft must be inspected — and Boeing issued a similar recommendation on November 25, 2012.

Should you temporarily avoid being a passenger on Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft? That is an overreaction, in my opinion — but I advise that you should be aware and prepared for a delay or cancellation of a flight if a Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft is scheduled to be assigned to your flight. Besides, the safety record of most of the major airlines worldwide is excellent. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines both reportedly found and repaired the aforementioned fault in several of their Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft, and you can bet that United Airlines and Boeing will resolve the issue aboard flight 1174, which reportedly had nothing to do with the improperly installed couplings.

I usually practice the dictum of never purchasing the first model year of any vehicle or device in order to give a manufacturer an opportunity to work out the “bugs” and improve its product. Perhaps that advice might apply to aircraft as well…

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