ethiopian airlines boeing 787 dreamliner fire heathrow airport batteries technology
By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON -- There is no evidence at this stage of a link between a fire that broke out on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at London's Heathrow airport and the plane's batteries, Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Saturday.

The fire broke out on the plane, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, Friday afternoon, when it was parked at a remote stand with no passengers on board, eight hours after arriving from Addis Ababa. No one was injured.

The question of whether the fire was in any way connected to the batteries is crucial because the entire global fleet of 787 Dreamliners, Boeing's new flagship jet, was grounded for three months this year due to battery-related problems.

"There has been extensive heat damage in the upper portion of the rear fuselage, a complex part of the aircraft, and the initial investigation is likely to take several days," the AAIB said in a statement.

"However, it is clear that this heat damage is remote from the area in which the aircraft main and [auxiliary power unit] batteries are located, and, at this stage, there is no evidence of a direct causal relationship."

Separately, Britain's Thomson Airways said one of its 787 Dreamliners that had to turn back during a flight Friday had suffered a "minor technical issue".

Thomson said a small number of components had been replaced, the aircraft had been fully tested and it would take off from Manchester in northwest England bound for Cancun in Mexico 0850 GMT (4:50 a.m. Eastern time) Sunday.

Thomson declined to specify which components had been replaced. The aircraft turned back as a precautionary measure during a flight from Manchester to Sanford, Fla., on Friday afternoon.

Thomson said its two other 787 Dreamliners had also been fully tested and would fly from London's Gatwick airport to Sanford and to Palma on Sunday.

The Heathrow and Manchester incidents were a new blow for Boeing (BA) after the entire global fleet of 787 Dreamliners had to be grounded for three months, ending in April, after one high-tech battery caught fire and another overheated.

Boeing shares closed down 4.7 percent at $101.87 Friday, knocking $3.8 billion off the company's market capitalization.

'Smoke Through the Fuselage'

The Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner has been moved to a hangar at Heathrow where it is under technical investigation, the AAIB said, adding that the initial witness and physical evidence showed there had been smoke throughout the fuselage.

The AAIB said the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, representing the state of design and manufacture, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Ethiopia, representing the state of registry and operator, had been invited to appoint accredited representatives to participate in the investigation.

The AAIB also said it had also invited the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing, Ethiopian Airlines, the European Aviation Safety Agency and Britain's Civil Aviation Authority to participate as advisers to the investigation.

Boeing will be keen to reassure , travelers and investors over the cause of the fire as quickly as possible but under aviation rules it will be up to investigators to decide how much information to release and when.

Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa's top five carriers, said it would continue to fly its 787 Dreamliner fleet. It has ordered 10 of the high-tech aircraft, four of which have been delivered.

"The incident at Heathrow happened while the plane was on the ground and had been for more than eight hours and was not related to flight safety," the carrier said in an emailed statement Saturday.

"After a normal flight from Addis to London, passengers disembarked in the morning and the aircraft was cleaned. It was towed to a remote parking area as usual and parked properly with all internal and external powers switched off," said an official from the airline's public relations department.

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Maybe Boeing should offer jobs to all of the aviation experts writing in these columns.

July 15 2013 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Could it be that ice built up inside the skin during flight and it did not thaw until several hours later and the water caused the shorts which caused the fire and SMOKE???????????

July 14 2013 at 11:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Makes you wonder why this plane seems to have so many problems with fires.

July 14 2013 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sabotage looms large.

July 14 2013 at 6:50 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Boeing's CEO cut off his own nose to spite his own face. First he caused a strike at Boeing by trying to take away benefits Boeing workers had for decades under all the prior Boeing CEO's. That strike that lasted several weeks cost Boeing something in the range $2 billion in lost slaes and production. That strike made the CEO even more anti-union so he outsourced most of the design work and he bought most of the components abroad and spent bilion upon billion extra to circumvent using those union workers. He even opened a new non-union plant in a Southern State to bypass the regular unionized Boeing workers. Four years behind schedule was the end result and $$$ Billions after billion over expected costs. Many orders were for the plane were cancelled, because the buyers were tired of waiting as it remained behind schedule. Now that the CEO screwed it all up and he saw the mountain of problems that he alone created __he finally brought much of the work back to the unionized experienced skilled workers hoping they could straighten out the mess he as CEO created for the company. Yet many of the components that go into builing them are still made by foreign companies offshore as is the design work that went into them. Even the greates union workers cannot overcome poor design.

July 14 2013 at 4:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Unfortunately the most serious built in problem with the Boeing 787 may never be solved. It is called "Rain in the Plane by Boeing's own people. The carbon fiber body traps moisture that is so intense that the humidity is so high it cause water to run down the wall panels. When these planes fly up to 30,000 or more feet it is very cold outside the plane and warm inside the plane which causes condensation between the inner wall and outside body. We all know electricity and water do not mix. Any moisture can cause an electrical short circiut resulting in a fire or melt down of electronic components and even melt down of the batteries.. Search the Internet using the phrase "rain in the plane' and you will find the Boeing reports on the subject.

July 14 2013 at 4:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if anyone ever considered arson.

July 14 2013 at 1:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Boeing outsourced a great deal of engineering and small part manufacturing on this aircraft - different from their previous practices.
Bet that they'll think twice before they do that again. It has cost them hundreds of millions straightening out the problems - not to mention the bad PR.

July 13 2013 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


July 13 2013 at 9:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yawn. Give it a rest ""... You lost, and America won. Get it yet??

July 13 2013 at 8:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply