News / Europe

    Dreamliner Fire Classified as Serious; No Sign of Battery Issue

    Ethiopian Airliner 787 Dreamliner prepare to take off from Addis Ababa, April 27, 2013.Ethiopian Airliner 787 Dreamliner prepare to take off from Addis Ababa, April 27, 2013.
    x
    Ethiopian Airliner 787 Dreamliner prepare to take off from Addis Ababa, April 27, 2013.
    Ethiopian Airliner 787 Dreamliner prepare to take off from Addis Ababa, April 27, 2013.
    Reuters
    Investigators classified the fire that broke out on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner parked at London's Heathrow airport as a “serious incident” but have found no evidence it was caused by the plane's batteries, Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said on Saturday.
     
    The question of whether the fire was connected to the batteries is crucial because the entire global fleet of Dreamliners, Boeing's groundbreaking new flagship jet, was grounded for three months this year due to battery-related problems.
     
    The AAIB designation fell just short of a full-blown “accident” on the scale it uses to describe investigations. The agency's preliminary probe is expected to take several days, opening up Boeing to more questions about its top-selling plane.
     
    Despite the uncertainty surrounding the blaze, airlines around the world continued to operate the Dreamliner. Some 18 787s took to the skies Saturday afternoon, about the same as Friday.
     
    The fire broke out on the Ethiopian Airlines plane on Friday afternoon, and was discovered when smoke was seen on the plane eight hours after arriving from Addis Ababa. No one was injured.
     
    “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 APU [Auxiliary Power Unit] batteries are located, and, at this stage, there is no evidence of a direct causal relationship.”
     
    The Financial Times on Saturday reported that airline staff had discovered a problem with the aircraft's air conditioning system during a routine inspection and had seen sparks but no flames.
     
    The Times, quoting Mark Mangooni, Ethiopian Airlines' senior manager in Britain, did not make clear when this had happened. Reuters could not reach Mangooni for comment.
     
    Separately, Britain's Thomson Airways said one of its Dreamliners that turned back during a flight from Manchester to Sanford in Florida on Friday had suffered a “minor technical issue” and had now had a small number of components replaced.
     
    Thomson said the aircraft had been fully tested and was being taken back into service at once. The airline declined to specify which components had been replaced.
     
    Thomson Airways, owned by the world's largest tour operator TUI Travel, has a total of three Dreamliners and all are now operating normally, the airline said.
     
    Britain's Sky News television channel said it had learnt that some 100 Thomson passengers had called the airline's cancelation line asking to know if they were booked to fly on a Dreamliner. Sky News did not give a source for the information and Thomson declined to comment.
     
    The Heathrow and Manchester incidents were a new blow for Boeing after the entire global fleet of 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 on Friday, knocking $3.8 billion off the company's market capitalization.
     
    “Smoke throughout fuselage”
     
    Several airlines said they were continuing to operate their Dreamliners, including United Continental, the Polish airline LOT, Japan Airlines and ANA, the world's biggest operator of the 787.
     
    Heathrow briefly closed both its runways to deal with Friday's fire, causing delays and cancelations, but was back to normal operations on Saturday.
     
    Footage from the scene of the fire showed apparent scorching on the fuselage near the tail. The Dreamliner's two batteries are in compartments located low down near the front and middle of the plane.
     
    The Ethiopian Airlines 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 (NTSB), 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 airlines, 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 Dreamliner fleet. It has ordered a total of 10 Dreamliners, of which four have been delivered.
     
    “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.

    You May Like

    Multimedia US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora