A Honeywell emergency beacon may have caused last week’s fire on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and should be turned off, British aviation officials said yesterday.
Boeing says it supports the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch’s (AAIB) recommendations and remains “confident the 787 is safe.”
Also on Thursday, a Japan Airlines 787 returned to Boston’s Logan airport following in-flight alerts about a fuel pump.
The AAIB said the locator beacon and its battery was the only system on the parked Ethiopian Airlines plane at London’s Heathrow airport that was near the blaze and could have started it, Reuters reports. The AAIB also called on the FAA and other regulators to review emergency beacons with lithium-based batteries for use on all other aircraft.
The British investigation into what caused the fire — whether a battery malfunction or an outside factor such as an electrical short — is ongoing.
A Honeywell spokesperson told Reuters that the company backs the AAIB’s recommendation to turn off the beacons and said Honeywell would assist Boeing and the airlines if needed.
UK and US officials say there’s no indication last Friday’s fire or yesterday’s incident at Logan airport are related to the January battery fires, Reuters reports.
The fuel-efficient Dreamliner fleet was grounded worldwide for three months earlier this year after two separate January incidences of lithium-ion backup batteries catching fire. Boeing modified the battery to prevent future fires and the FAA approved the battery system improvements in April.
Initial speculation following last week’s fire centered on the Dreamliner’s lightweight, carbon-plastic composite construction that, when combined with new engines, makes for 20 percent better fuel-efficiency and 10 percent less operating costs compared to traditional aluminum bodies. The fire, coupled with other safety concerns, will slow “the introduction of some lightweight innovations for fuel efficiency,” Lux Research analyst Cosmin Laslau told Environmental Leader.