Quoting from the WSJ Article:
JAL said white smoke was detected Tuesday at around 4:15 p.m. Tokyo time by a mechanic who was checking the cockpit before the plane was to depart for Bangkok that evening. The mechanic saw the smoke just outside the window and it was gone by the time the person went outside to check.
A check of cockpit displays soon after showed signs of problems in the main battery and its charger, JAL said. When the battery was checked, the mechanic found that a relief port had vented on one of the eight lithium-ion cells that are contained in each battery and that liquid had sprayed inside the battery container.
That doesn’t tell us a whole lot, and even being a big Boeing fan I wouldn’t expect them to come out and say there’s a larger problem. The clearest sign this may be a non-issue is that nobody else is grounding their 787 fleet, nor are they taking any other precautions as directed by Boeing at this time. So, it really could just be a bad battery.
It’s been almost a year since the last time Boeing had battery problems with the 787. There are over 100 planes in service now, and almost 60,000 flights of 100 million miles total. And, parts do fail. Every day. I had 4 flights in a row late in 2013 that had mechanical issues delaying our departure.
But, battery issues on the 787 still represent a very public perception of a problem. I’ve discussed in the past that the 787 has faced more public scrutiny than likely any plane before it. Not scrutiny, public scrutiny. Sure, the 777 had lots of issues at inception, but that was before Twitter and Facebook and the immediacy of news.
I would certainly expect the same sort of coverage if the Airbus A350 should have such problems after take-off. For starters, they’re not planning to use lithium-ion batteries the way Boeing did. And, they’ll likely have been able to learn from some of Boeing’s more public missteps in order to launch a new frame publicly. That plane is running far behind schedule as well.
On any other plane this is likely a non-issue. But the 787 story is still new enough, IMO, that this will get a little bit of play for the next couple of days. But, it’s a far cry from where we were a year ago, where each new announcement caused folks to wonder if the 787 would be grounded (it was) and for news organizations to cover this like the bubonic plague was spreading through the world.
I’d classify this as a growing pain given the number of flights the 787 has completed at this point.