Just when it looked like Boeing’s problems with its flagship had ended, a new event revived safety concerns when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 caught fire while parked at London Heathrow Airport.
The incident occurred last Friday at around 4:30 PM, the jet had been parked in a remote bay for more than eight hours. The aircraft was empty and none was injured, an airline spokesman said. Firefighters soon extinguished the fire. Television images showed nearly a dozen fire trucks on the scene and firefighters standing around the Ethiopian Airlines plane, the 787 at Heathrow showed damage to the top of the jet’s body near the passenger doors at the rear, the 787’s twin lithium-ion batteries are installed below the floor in electrical bays near the nose and between the wings of the aircraft underneath the cabin, far from the damaged area visible in the footage. British police said the fire is being treated as unexplained.
The U.K. Air Accident Investigation Bureau sent a team to investigate, also the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending an expert to the scene, and the Federal Aviation Administration said it would also send an official “in support of the NTSB.”
Boeing shares fell as much as 7%, analysts said the incident didn’t appear related to the battery troubles that grounded 787s worldwide earlier this year.
Richard L. Aboulafia, director of aviation consulting for Teal Group Corp., said Friday’s fire didn’t appear to take place near the battery. Although that could be welcome news for Boeing, he said the bouncing share price showed how dependent the company is on the 787
“You only get to launch one new line a decade,” Aboulafia said. “There’s an awful lot riding on this.”
Wayne Plucker, the lead aerospace industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan, said the plane might not have been receiving air conditioning at the time. – “Any time you have an airplane parked and powered and under maintenance, the electronics take a real cooling challenge,” he said. “They could have been running all the electronics without all of the air conditioners on.”
This incident will place more pressure on Boeing.
Photo Credits: Associated Press