Transport Airlines

United 787 Dreamliner diverted, but doesn’t the public need to know more?

Dec 05, 2012 5:41 am

Skift Take

United shouldn’t be thinking about public relations, but should be informing its customers about what happened on the diverted flight.

— Dennis Schaal

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A United 787 Dreamliner flight was forced to execute an emergency landing in New Orleans yesterday, and the airline and Boeing are being overly tight-lipped about what happened.

All United will say about the problem is that a “mechanical issue arose,” necessitating an emergency landing of flight 1146, which departed from Houston and was heading to Newark.

“United flight 1146 to Newark diverted to New Orleans this morning when a mechanical issue arose following departure from Houston,” says United spokesperson Christen David.  “The Boeing 787 aircraft landed safely and without incident.  The flight carried 174 customers and 10 crew members.  We reaccommodated the customers on a different aircraft to Newark.  United will work with Boeing to review the diversion and determine the cause.”

And, The Wall Street Journal quotes a Boeing spokeswoman saying: As you can imagine, we’re going to let the technical teams do their jobs and not speculate. We’re not providing details about the event at this point in time as the teams are still working to understand it.”

No one is asking United and Boeing to get to the bottom of the incident within a few hours, but what happened on board the jet?

Did an engine fail?

Was there a fuel leak?

A little more detail about the incident would certainly be in order.

Both United and Boeing, which has well over 800 orders for Dreamliners from about 50 airlines, have a vested interest in being buttoned-up to protect the aircraft’s reputation.

Meanwhile, what is believed to be an unrelated action, the FAA has ordered Boeing to inspect all its Dreamliners for fuel leaks because of a technical glitch with the aircraft’s fuel-line connectors.

All Nippon Airways reportedly discovered a fuel leak in a Dreamliner last month.

Is this what happened with United flight 1146? No one is saying.

Is the Dreamliner currently unsafe to fly?

Both United, Boeing and the FAA need to be more forthcoming about what happened to the United flight and the much-hyped Dreamliner.

Update: The Wall Street Journal provided more detail about what may happened onboard the United flight, stating:

The crew on Tuesday’s flight indicated the problem’s possible location, radioing the tower while on approach to New Orleans airport to request that first responders check for discoloration or dripping plastic in an area behind the wing known as the aft electrical equipment bay, where many of the aircraft’s electrical power systems are located.

United said there was no indication of fire on the aircraft. United officials were focusing their investigation on a generator on the plane, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Eric Erickson, a finance consultant from Houston, said that just over an hour into the flight, the lights flickered and his seatback television froze and had to be rebooted. “I then noticed we were making a long right-hand turn” to New Orleans, he said.

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