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Japan, US regulators search battery maker GS Yuasa in Kyoto over Boeing fault news
21 January 2013

Japan's transport ministry and US regulators searched GS Yuasa Corp headquarters in Kyoto to probe battery faults that led to the grounding of the Boeing Dreamliner fleet.

Officials entered GS Yuasa's offices and the company was fully cooperating with the authorities, according to Tsutomu Nishijima, a spokesman for the lithium-ion battery supplier. The search continued till about 5 pm local time, according to an e-mailed statement from the ministry.

The company's batteries are at the centre of the investigation into the causes of a fire on a Japan Airlines Co plane as also an emergency landing by an All Nippon Airways Co jet.

Boeing said last week it would not deliver any 787s until the FAA confirmed that the Dreamliner's flammable lithium-ion batteries that formed part of the electrical system supplied by Thales SA, were safe.

The search got under way at 11 am and the ministry sent one official, while the FAA sent two people to Kyoto, Shigeru Takano, a director for air transportation in the ministry's Civil Aviation Bureau, told reporters in Tokyo.

''We're checking parts and the manufacturing process to ensure work was carried out appropriately,'' Takano said.

Shares of GS Yuasa, the world's biggest motorcycle battery maker, were up 1 per cent to 318 yen in Tokyo today, a second consecutive day of gains following three straight declines.

Until Boeing was forced by safety regulators to ground its new 787 Dreamliner jets last week, the aircraft manufacturer was flying high, with soaring profits and a recently regained No 1 ranking in jet deliveries over Airbus.

However, the grounding after batteries in two planes caught fire has left the company facing awkward questions. Investors as also government officials are keeping a close watch on developments.

Although company officials said they expected to find a solution quickly, federal regulators yesterday ruled out one simple explanation - that the battery was overcharged. If the problems proved more complicated, they could threaten the company's expansion plans as also the jobs that went with it, experts point out.

According to experts, in what could be the worst possible outcome right now, the aircraft maker might have to redesign its powerful new lithium-ion battery system, or revert to older, safer models. According to aviation experts, such changes could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and knock off the 20 per cent savings in fuel costs that the new jets had delivered. (See: Boeing halts 787 deliveries, but production to go on)

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Japan, US regulators search battery maker GS Yuasa in Kyoto over Boeing fault