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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora