Japan's two biggest airlines today grounded all their Dreamliners in the most serious blow yet to Boeing's troubled next-generation model after an ANA flight was forced into an emergency landing.
The 787 Dreamliner has suffered more than a week of bad news that has prompted safety investigations by three national aviation regulators, although Boeing insists the plane is safe.
All Nippon Airways -- the world's first carrier to receive the Dreamliner from Boeing after years of delays – said a battery problem triggered a cockpit error message that
forced the pilots to land the plane in southwestern Japan.
ANA said instruments on the Dreamliner had detected smoke in a forward electrical compartment, and Japanese Transport Minister Akihiro Ota said it was a "serious incident that could have led to a serious accident".
Both Ota's ministry and the US Federal Aviation Administration broadened existing probes into the Dreamliner to encompass the ANA incident. Authorities in India said today they were starting their own investigation.
Both ANA and its rival Japan Airlines (JAL) -- which are among Boeing's biggest customers for the Dreamliner – said they would ground their entire 787 fleets pending safety checks.
ANA has 17 Dreamliners in operation and JAL has seven, and both have dozens more on order in deals worth billions of dollars for Boeing. Australia's Qantas said it was sticking by an order for 15 Dreamliners for its Jetstar affiliate.
ANA said 129 passengers and eight crew were on board the flight, which was headed from Ube in the far west to Tokyo when it diverted mid-flight to an airport in Takamatsu, on Japan's fourth largest island of Shikoku.
Police reported several "slight injuries" such as scratches after those aboard evacuated the plane via emergency chutes at Takamatsu, as fire trucks deployed on the ground. One passenger was quoted by broadcaster NHK as saying he "smelled something strange" after take-off and feared the plane was going to crash.
Last week, there was a battery fire and smoke on an empty Dreamliner flight operated by JAL on the ground in the US city of Boston.
JAL said the smoke on that flight was traced to