The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered airlines to ground their fleets of Boeing 787 Dreamliners until the plane's onboard batteries are proven safe to operate.
Today's action comes on the heels of Japanese carriers All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounding their 787s after a battery fire forced the evacuation of an ANA flight earlier today.
"As a result of an in-flight, Boeing 787 battery incident earlier today in Japan, the FAA will issue an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) to address a potential battery fire risk in the 787 and require operators to temporarily cease operations," the FAA said in a statement. "Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered, Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the batteries are safe."
A similar incident occurred January 7 when a Japan Airlines 787 on the ground at Boston's Logan International Airport caught fire, the cause of which was traced back to a battery pack in an auxiliary power unit. As a result of that incident, the FAA announced it would conduct a comprehensive review of the aircraft.
Other mishaps in recent weeks have involved oil and fuel leaks, a cracked windshield, and false warnings from an electrical panel.
United Airlines is the only U.S. airline currently operating the 787, with six airplanes in service.
The FAA said it was working with Boeing and carriers to develop a solution to the problem and resume operation of the 787s as soon as possible. The agency said the root cause of the failure is 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," the FAA said.
Calling the safety of passengers and crew its highest priority, Boeing said it stands behind the safety of the 787.
"Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible," the company said in a statement. "The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities. We will make available the entire resources of The Boeing Company to assist. We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service.
After a long history of delays and production problems, the much-hyped Dreamliner -- a plane that features innovative use of composite materials -- was finally released to its first customer in September 2011, some three years behind schedule. The Dreamliner testing program was temporarily halted in November 2010 after an onboard electrical fire.
Updated at 5:15 p.m. PT with Boeing comment.