Boeing apologizes to Japanese airlines for 787 grounding

TOKYO - A top Boeing Co. official apologized Thursday to Japan's leading airlines for the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner.

Ray Conner, the head of Boeing's Commercial Airplanes Division, is on a whirlwind tour of Japan, apologizing for continuing problems with the Dreamliner.

His first stop was All Nippon Airways. It was one of that airline's 787s that was forced to make an emergency landing because of a lithium-ion battery problem.

Conner apologized on behalf of Boeing - and the 170,000 people he represents. He said the incidents that led to the grounding of the entire fleet of 787s has been "deeply regretful."

"I want to first apologize for the fact that we've had two incidents with our two very precious customers, ANA and JAL," Conner said.

He is heading up a Boeing delegation that went overseas for discussions with Japanese government officials, airliners and suppliers.

Japanese airlines fly more than half of the 50 Dreamliners currently in service - though for the past six weeks, Dreamliners around the world have sat on the tarmac after they were grounded.

Conner told ANA officials that boeing is ready to propose a new set of "permanent fixes" to the safety issues that have grounded the Dreamliner.

"What we did today was discuss the solutions that we are looking at that could be the final solution to getting the airplane back in the air flying again," he said.

But Japanese investigators have maintained that there's still not enough evidence to show that the batteries themselves are the cause of fires, and that some type of "shock" could have caused them to overheat.

American investigators have publicly disagreed, saying that there was no such surge in electrical current from outside the battery.

Conner said the 787 is still the "game-changing aircraft it is meant to be" - offering airlines the cost savings they were looking for.