July 14, 2013 9:08 pm

Dreamliner fire not linked to batteries


Runways at London's Heathrow airport have reopened after a fire on a parked Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet.

Air accident investigators are pursuing “all possible causes” of a fire on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at London’s Heathrow airport, after preliminary work found no evidence that the incident was caused by the aircraft’s batteries.

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch gave some cheer to Boeing by saying there was nothing to suggest that extensive heat damage to the Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner at Heathrow on Friday was linked to the jet’s lithium-ion batteries.

The overheating of batteries on two Dreamliners in January prompted regulators to order a temporary grounding of Boeing’s newest and most sophisticated passenger jet – the first such move against a single aircraft type in 34 years.

But the fire on the Ethiopian Airlines’ Dreamliner, while empty and parked at a stand at Heathrow, has put Boeing and the 787 under intense scrutiny once more. The AAIB, which is being assisted by US and Ethiopian investigators, said on Sunday: “The travelling public can be sure we are investigating all possible causes and following up all leads.”

On Saturday, the AAIB said its early work on the Dreamliner had found “extensive heat damage” to the upper part of the fuselage, at the rear.

It added there was “no evidence of a direct causal relationship” between the heat damage and the Dreamliner’s batteries.

Mark Mangooni, Ethiopian Airlines’ senior manager in the UK, said that one of its staff had discovered sparks coming from an area that was believed to be part of the Dreamliner’s air-conditioning system.

Analysts said that if the fire was linked to the innovative electrical system on the Dreamliner, it could raise new questions about the design and certification of the aircraft.

The US Federal Aviation Administration announced in January a review of the Dreamliner’s critical systems, including electrical power.

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