In 2007, the FAA cleared Boeing’s use of a potentially flammable battery in the Dreamliner because Boeing’s design was expected to contain any potential fire and divert smoke and fumes away from the passenger cabin.
Japan’s support for the Dreamliner reflects how closely integrated the nation’s aerospace industry has become in Boeing’s supply chain, experts say. “If the 787 prevails all over the world it’s good for Japanese industry, so the government wants to support it,” said Hajime Tozaki, an aviation policy specialist and professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University, who was not part of the 2008 review.
Japanese companies led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd maker of the wartime Zero fighter, build a third of the Dreamliner including its wings. With each succeeding Boeing model, Japanese suppliers have deepened their involvement from supplying parts for the 747 jumbo jet to becoming full-fledged, risk-sharing partners with the U.S. aircraft builder.
The stake of Japanese suppliers rose from less than a fifth for the 767 to a quarter for the 777 and 35 percent for the 787. As many as 22,000 aerospace jobs at 65 firms in Japan are pegged to Boeing’s fortunes, Boeing estimates.
After years of trying, Europe’s Airbus has failed to drive a wedge into Japan’s ties to Boeing, which in the past decade has won more than 80 percent of Japan’s aircraft orders.
For now, Japan is sticking by Boeing with some even calling for a more conspicuous government support for the 787.
“I didn’t feel there was enough (government) effort to promote the 787,” said Hiroyasu Hagio, a former JAL pilot who represented flight crews in the 2008 review as head of the Japan Aircraft Pilot Association. He added: “In other countries it’s normal for countries to aggressively get involved in sales.”