An All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits on the runway after an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan on Wednesday. All 137
An All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits on the runway after an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in western Japan on Wednesday. All 137 passengers and crew members were evacuated safely. (Kyodo/Reuters)

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday temporarily grounded all U.S. Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights until the safety of the aircraft's lithium batteries can be proven.

The FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive following another in-flight battery incident, this one forcing an emergency landing in Japan early Wednesday.

A variety of problems have occurred in recent weeks, but two battery-related incidents this week in Japan pushed the FAA beyond an ordered inspection and into immediate action.

According to the FAA statement, "The root cause of these failures is currently under investigation. These conditions, if not corrected, could result in damage to critical systems and structures, and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment."

United Airlines is currently the only U.S. carrier flying the 787 with six of the aircraft in its fleet.

The FAA plans to work with Boeing and United in developing a "corrective action plan."

Boeing's newest aircraft is a critical vessel for the Denver market as it is set to open up the Asia market with a new direct United flight to Tokyo beginning March 31.


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United released a statement saying it will immediately comply with the directive and work closely with the FAA and Boeing on the review.

The airline will reaccommodate passengers on alternate aircraft until it is given FAA approval to return the 787 to service, which may or may not be before the inaugural Denver-to-Tokyo flight.

Meantime, the Denver delegation — which includes representatives from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's office, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, Denver Chamber of Commerce, Denver International Airport and Colorado's Office of Economic Development and International Trade — is moving forward with its Tokyo plans.

"We are all watching this with interest, obviously," said DIA spokeswoman Stacey Stegman. "But there's still quite a bit of time to work out some of the issues that have been occurring."

According to several airline analysts, hiccups are normal whenever a new aircraft enters the commercial market.

"Every new airplane has glitches, and the glitches are more obvious with any airplane that is a technological leap," said Mike Boyd, an airline analyst and consultant. "Look at the 747 — it had major problems."

The Dreamliner has been heralded for its revolutionary technology — including its mostly carbon composite structure, fuel efficiency and advanced computer-based system.

Seven other airlines around the globe currently fly the Dreamliner. The FAA said it will advise those carriers on its corrective procedures so they can implement the changes in their own countries.

Local business and government leaders are banking on a solution being implemented prior to the start of the flight.

"Right now, our biggest focus is our strategy in Japan," said Tom Clark, chief executive of Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation."I have flown over the water in much less airworthy planes."

Kristen Leigh Painter: 303-954-1638, kpainter@denverpost.com or twitter.com/kristenpainter