Boeing dreamliner catches fire at London’s heathrow airport
London: A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Ethiopian Airlines caught fire at Britain’s Heathrow airport on Friday in a fresh blow for the US planemaker whose new model was grounded for three months after one high-tech battery caught fire and another overheated.
Heathrow briefly closed both its runways to deal with the fire which broke out while the aircraft was parked at a remote stand. There were no passengers aboard the plane. It was not clear if the fire was related to the batteries, which led to the grounding of the Dreamliner in January. Pictures from Heathrow showed an area just in front of the tail that appeared to be scorched. The Dreamliner’s two batteries are in electrical compartments located low down and near the front and middle of the plane, while the visible damage to the Ethiopian plane appears to be on top of the fuselage, further toward the rear, according to video from the scene. The 787 is Boeing’s biggest bet on new technology in nearly 20 years. It cost an estimated USD 32 billion to develop and Boeing plans to use hundreds of innovations such as its carbon-fibre composite skin and electrical system to enhance other jets. Boeing never disclosed the cost of the three-month grounding, but said it absorbed most of the expense in the first quarter while still posting a 20 percent rise in profit, and its shares are up 35 percent this year, even with Friday’s loss. The plane which caught fire in London was the first of the 787 fleet to resume flight after the battery-related grounding. “This is terrible for the Dreamliner, any event involving fire and that airplane is going to be a PR disaster for Boeing,” Christine Negroni, an aviation writer and safety specialist based in New York, said in a telephone interview. “Because of the battery issue, the public is even more sensitive to events that happen to the Dreamliner. Even if they are normal, benign teething problems, that subtlety is going to be lost on the public,” she said. Another Boeing Dreamliner operated by Thomson Airways returned to the United Kingdom due to technical issues on Friday as a precaution, TUI Travel said. Ethiopian Airlines said its aircraft had been parked at Heathrow for more than eight hours before smoke was detected. Richard Aboulafia, a senior aerospace analyst at the Teal Group in Virginia, said early evidence, including images of the jet, suggest the battery is not the issue because of the location of the fire.