Boeing troubles may hit Japan's manufacturers

The grounding of Boeing 787s due to a spate of glitches has sounded alarms as to a possible impact on the Japanese manufacturers that produce more than one-third of the cutting-edge aircraft's body.

After an ANA 787 was forced to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport on Wednesday after it experienced battery problems and a burning smell was detected in the cockpit, Boeing Co. tweeted, "We will be working with ANA and the authorities to determine what happened and why."

Boeing is accelerating the manufacture of the 787 in a plan to ramp up production to 10 planes a month by the end of this year. If carriers cancelled their orders for the 787--dubbed "Dreamliner"--it would be a massive blow to Boeing.

This month alone, 787s have been hit by problems including fuel leaks, a cracked cockpit window and a battery fire.

"We don't know the cause of the problems, so we don't know yet what the impacts will be," said a spokesman for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., which produces the main wings of the 787.

However, Mizuho Securities Co. senior analyst Yuichi Ando pointed out, "There is concern that Japanese firms that have important roles in the plane's production may see a temporary sales fall."

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. manufactures the plane's centre wings, which connect the main wings and body. The firm increased the number of production lines at its factory in Handa, Aichi Prefecture, from two to three in July 2012. "We are boosting production capacity and will encounter issues if production drops. We would like to see production continue as planned," Vice President Jun Kondo said at a press conference Tuesday.

Toray Industries Inc. provides carbon fiber composite for the main wings, tail units and other parts, for which iron and aluminium are commonly used. It projects sales of more than 526 billion yen in the 16 years up to 2021. Its spokesman said the company has not heard from Boeing and does not anticipate a change in its contract.

Other manufacturers include Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., which produces parts including the forward fuselage; IHI Corp., which produces the engine section; Jamco Corp., which makes the lavatories, and Bridgestone Corp., which manufactures tires.

An airline company official described the 787 as the "crystallization of cutting-edge Japanese technologies." The entire domestic manufacturing industry could be hit by the problems with the aircraft, depending on future production trends.

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