Boeing's 787 Disaster Grows as Japan Grounds All Dreamliners

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 16 2013 8:06 AM

Boeing's 787 Disaster Grows as Japan Grounds All Dreamliners

Nippon Airways' (ANA) Boeing 787 Dreamliner
All Nippon Airways' (ANA) Boeing 787 Dreamliner is pulled by a towing tractor at Tokyo's Haneda airport on Jan. 16, 2013, after a passenger plane made an emergency landing in western Japan after smoke was reportedly seen inside the cockpit

Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.

Earlier this month, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire on the ground ar Logan Airport, and now Japanese airlines have ordered 787s temporarily out of service after an ANA flight suffered from battery problems and a burning smell in the cockpit.

The problem here for one of America's largest manufacturers is enormous. Developing a whole new model of airplane is expensive. That's doubly true with something like the 787 that gains substantial advantages from the use of novel construction materials. That enormous R&D outlay has to be justified through profits on many, many airplanes over a period of many years. It's not like a movie studio, where in any given year you expect to have some flops and some hits, and the name of the game is for the hits to cover the flops. Boeing needs all hits. That means they need airlines to be hearing from passengers about the vastly improved flight experience of a higher pressure, less dehumidifying cabin not about delays and random cockpit fires.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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