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

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid