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Originally published January 16, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Page modified January 16, 2013 at 3:40 PM

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Boeing cancels strategy sessions to focus on 787

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Ray Conner abruptly canceled a long-planned, day-long strategy meeting of his senior leadership executives Wednesday morning.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Ray Conner abruptly canceled most of a long-planned, day-long strategy meeting of his leadership executives and senior operational employees — some 900 people gathered at the Washington State Convention Center, including many top engineers — Wednesday morning.

Conner held just a short Q&A session with the employees, answering questions about the emergency landing of a 787 Dreamliner in Japan and its implications.

But the rest of the day, including presentations to the crowd from out-of-town industry analysts and top airline executive Willie Walsh, chief executive of the holding company that owns British Airways and Spanish airline Iberia, was postponed until some unspecified later date.

Those who had flown in for the meeting left for home early as Conner gathered his team to confront the crisis in the 787 program.

All Nippon Airways confirmed in a statement that its 787 made an emergency landing in Japan Wednesday morning local time because of an overheated main battery and “an unusual smell in the cockpit as well as in the cabin.”

The battery was found to be blackened after the incident.

The airline said its Dreamliner fleet of 17 jets will stay grounded for at least one more day, with 35 domestic flights in Japan canceled for Thursday. Its international flights will go ahead using different aircraft types.

United Airlines, the only U.S. carrier flying the airplane, said it will continue to fly the 787.

“We inspected all of our 787 aircraft and they are flying as scheduled,” said spokeswoman Christen David. “We are continuing to support Boeing and the FAA throughout their (safety) review.”

Polish airline LOT proceeded with its inaugural 787 trans-Atlantic flight, which took off from Warsaw and is scheduled to land in Chicago early Wednesday evening.

ANA described the in-flight incident, which occurred Wednesday morning in Japan, Tuesday afternoon Seattle time:

“On flight NH692 the aircraft indicators showed messages related to the battery at around 8:27 a.m. at the altitude of 30,000 feet. There was also an unusual smell in the cockpit as well as in the cabin.”

The statement said that after the emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport, it was later confirmed “that the main battery in the forward electronic equipment bay was discoloured and the electrolysis solution had leaked.”

ANA added that though one passenger “felt slight discomfort” after the emergency slide evacuation and was taken to hospital, no injury was diagnosed.

Two other passengers suffered slight abrasions sliding down, the airline said.

The plane involved in the incident was Dreamliner No. 9, one of the early and heavily reworked airplanes.

Boeing delivered the jet exactly a year ago on Jan. 14 and it entered service 10 days later.

The confirmation of a second battery problem is bad news for Boeing, which insisted a week ago after a battery fire on a Japan Airlines jet at Logan International Airport in Boston that the new high-energy lithium ion batteries used on the Dreamliner are safe.

The JAL 787 involved in the Logan incident was a brand-new jet, Dreamliner No. 84, which Boeing had delivered to the airline just three weeks earlier.

That plane came off the production line in Everett largely finished and did not need to go to Boeing’s modification center at the south end of Paine Field for rework.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the Logan fire, said on Wednesday it is sending an investigator to Japan to examine the ANA plane.

The Japan Transport Safety Board has also begun an investigation.

Wednesday morning in New York, Goldman Sachs analyst Noah Poponak issued a report to investors lowering near-term profit and share price expectations.

Poponak wrote that despite remaining optimistic about the commercial airplane sector and Boeing’s long-term earnings prospects, “we also recognize that there have now been two incidents in a very short window pointing to potential issues related to one part – lithium ion batteries.”

He said the this “heightens the risk of a potentially more meaningful required change to the aircraft and therefore a possible delay in the pace of the production ramp.”

Boeing’s stock fell $2.74 or 3.56 percent to $74.20 by early Wednesday afternoon New York time.

Dominic Gates: (2gathering06) 464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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