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Airline grounds fleet after latest 787 incident
Evacuated passengers are seen after an All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing 787 Dreamliner made an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan January 16, 2013, in this photo taken with a mobile phone by a passenger who was onboard. Picture: Reuters

Japan's ANA and JAL airlines are to ground its entire fleet of 17 Dreamliners, state broadcaster NHK reports after a 787 made an emergency landing in western Japan, the latest in a series of incidents.

"Following the emergency landing, ANA will ground all its other 16 Dreamliners for emergency inspections," the broadcaster said in a Tweet, without citing sources on Wednesday.

The Boeing Dreamliner operated by All Nippon Airways made an emergency landing in the west of Japan on Wednesday. Media reports say smoke had been seen inside the aircraft.

"It made an emergency landing at Takamatsu because there was an error message during the flight," from Ube in the far west, bound for Tokyo, ANA spokeswoman Naoko Yamamoto said.

Television pictures showed emergency chutes deployed from the plane at the airport in Takamatsu, on Japan’s fourth largest island of Shikoku.

Jiji Press reported smoke had been seen inside the cockpit. If confirmed, it would constitute yet another blow to the Dreamliner’s reputation after more than a week of bad news.

ANA said 129 passengers and eight crew on board, with Jiji and broadcast NHK saying none was injured.

“It is true that the aircraft has recently seen a series of troubles,” said the ANA spokesman. “But we cannot say if this has something in common with previous problems”.

Japan’s transport minister has already launched a probe of Boeing’s Dreamliner after a series of problems with the high-tech aircraft left travellers “enormously worried”.

The 787 has been ordered by Australia's Jetstar airline.

The ministry said it had chosen a team of experts to examine a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines (JAL) that suffered two fuel leaks in less than a week.

A series of high-profile incidents over the last week are the latest problems to dog the aircraft, after production glitches delayed delivery of the first plane to All Nippon Airways (ANA) by three years.

JAL and rival ANA, Japan’s two biggest airlines, are among Boeing’s most important clients for the Dreamliner, with a combined more than 100 planes either already delivered or on order, in deals worth billions of dollars.

Problems bloomed last week with a fire on a JAL flight after it landed in Boston, the fuel leaks, and a cracked cockpit windshield that grounded one flight in Japan.

The Japanese probe comes after US regulators on Friday announced an in-depth safety review of the plane.

“I think the Japanese people have become enormously worried after hearing almost every day” about problems with the Dreamliner, Transport Minister Akihiro Ota told a regular news briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday.

“It is important for us as the transport ministry to take a proactive approach and get a full grasp of the issue in order to provide a sense of safety and comfort to the public,” he added.

The ANA incident appears to be the second related to batteries in just a week.

On Monday January 7, a Japan Airlines 787 caught fire at the gate at Boston airport in the US.

There were no passengers on board.

That fire was associated with a lithium ion battery used to start the Auxiliary Power Unit which is used on the ground.

The US safety watchdog has launched a review of the 787’s electrical system which is a departure from all other commercial jets in that it relies more heavily on battery power.

The 787 has suffered a series of problems in the past two months.

On December 4, a United Airlines 787 with 184 people aboard was forced to make an emergency landing in New Orleans after experiencing an electrical fault.

The next day Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787s after finding the same electrical fault.

On December 17, United Airlines said that had discovered another electrical problem in another of its newly delivered 787s.

During the flight test program another 787 suffered an in-flight fire while on approach to landing.

After today’s incident it is possible that the US authorities may put restrictions on the operations of the 787 and limit the distance the plane can fly away from airports.

The Dreamliner had been lauded by Boeing for a high-tech composite fibre body that reduces weight and improves fuel efficiency.

In July, test engine trouble was the subject of a probe by the US National Transportation Safety Board. The same month ANA said it was grounding five Dreamliners for repairs because of a defect in the Rolls-Royce engine.

In February, Boeing said about 55 Dreamliners were at risk of developing a fuselage problem.