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Tue 8 Nov 2011 10:32 AM

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Boeing Co's Dreamliner hit by landing gear glitch

US planemaker begins probe into technical hitch; first 787s handed over two weeks ago

Boeing Co's Dreamliner hit by landing gear glitch
Boeing has postponed deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner seven times

Boeing Co and All Nippon Airways are investigating a landing
gear problem on the 787 Dreamliner, the first technical glitch reported since
the new jetliner entered service less than two weeks ago, the airline said on
Monday.

Pilots on the first of two aircraft delivered so far to ANA
were forced on Sunday to deploy the landing gear using a manual backup system,
after an indicator lamp suggested the wheels were not properly down.

They landed at Okayama on the second attempt following the
incident, the airline said.

"We are not yet sure what the problem was, but we are
investigating," an airline spokesman said, adding that Boeing was also
involved in the investigation.

Kyodo news agency linked the problem to a hydraulic valve,
but Boeing declined to confirm the cause.

A Boeing spokesman in Europe said: "We are aware of
this matter and are on site in Japan with ANA offering whatever assistance they
require." A Boeing spokeswoman in Seattle said the aircraft has been repaired
and is back in service.

The 787 Dreamliner is a revolutionary lightweight aircraft
built mainly of carbon composites designed to save fuel.

It was delivered in September after three years of
production delays and made an inaugural flight on October 26 from Tokyo to Hong
Kong followed by regular services from November 1.

ANA has said it will fly the aircraft domestically on a
trial basis before putting it on long international routes.

The 787's two engines power electrical systems that operate
flight controls and landing gear. US aviation regulators required that Boeing
satisfy extra steps before certifying that system because it was a new design.

Because the high-profile Dreamliner incorporates so many
design and manufacturing firsts, the airplane is under increased scrutiny from
the aviation community. The plane is about three years behind its original
development schedule because of snags in the extensive global supply chain.

Boeing departed from traditional use of reliable aluminium
construction, opting instead for reinforced carbon composites to improve fuel
savings. Many in the travelling public know the Dreamliner as the world's first
plastic jet

"Teething problems are relatively common for a new
jetliner entering service, but the 787 is under a lot of scrutiny due to its
difficult development history," said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace
analyst at Teal Group.

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"This glitch shouldn't have any impact on customer
perceptions of the 787, as long as Boeing aggressively pursues its
investigation and implements any needed fix," Aboulafia said.

Boeing encountered a nose gear problem on a 787 test flight
in 2009. That airplane is still part of the Dreamliner test fleet and will be
not be delivered to a customer.

Landing gear problems are not uncommon on commercial planes,
which include backup equipment that allow pilots to manually lower and secure the
wheels for landing.

Sunday's landing-gear incident comes days after a Boeing 767
landed on its belly in Warsaw after the landing gear failed to deploy.

The wheels-up landing was hailed as a miraculous escape for
the 230 people on board, but aviation experts say such incidents are relatively
rare.

There have been 10 accidents involving stuck landing wheels
since 2000, none of them fatal, according to a database run by the Flight
Safety Foundation.

The landing gear for the 787 Dreamliner is made by
Messier-Dowty. Parent Safran declined to comment. The 787 work is part of
Messier-Dowty's first prime contract with Boeing for a commercial plane.

The 787 uses composites in key components of landing gear
construction to reduce weight, according to Messier-Dowty.

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