Boeing 787 Dreamliner Fire Not Battery Related

The fire aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at London’s Heathrow Airport was not related to the jet’s recent battery problems. The fire was also labeled a “serious incident” by investigators.

The entire fleet of Dreamliners was grounded for three months already this year because of battery problems that led to two fires. The designation by Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) falls just short of labeling the fire a full-blown “accident.”

The preliminary probe will likely last for several days and could open up more questions into whether or not Boeing’s state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner is really worth its problems.

Despite the uncertainty regarding what caused the blaze last Friday, which temporarily closed Heathrow, airlines are continuing to operate the Dreamliner around the world. About 18 of them have taken to the skies in the past few days.

The fire started last Friday afternoon while the plane was empty. The AAIB released a statement on the 787 Dreamliner fire, saying:

“It is clear that this heat damage is remote from the area in which the aircraft main and APU batteries are located and at this stage there is no evidence of a direct casual relationship.”

That is both good and bad news for Boeing. While it means that the battery fix, which was implemented two months ago, appears to be holding, but a new problem may be arising. Ethiopian Airlines explained that the incident happened after the 787 Dreamliner arrived on Friday morning from Addis Ababa.

Passengers deplaned that the plane was cleaned. As it wasn’t going to be used again right away, the 787 was towed to a remote area of the airport and parked with its internal and external power switched off. Ethiopian reported that smoke was detected eight hours later.

Despite the plane’s grounding earlier this year, customer demand for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has remained solid. The plane is more efficient than earlier models because it is built with composite material instead of aluminum. Boeing has 862 unfilled orders for the long-range plane and has so-far filled 68 orders. The company hopes to up production to 10 planes per month by the end of the year.

However, with the latest possible Boeing 787 Dreamliner issue, it is unclear what the plane’s future will be.

[Image via Konstantin von Wedelstaedt]