Boeing Dreamliner Fire Probe Focuses On Beacon

The probe to find the cause of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner fire at Heathrow Airport earlier this month is focusing on the plane’s emergency locator beacon. The beacon is not required by the US Federal Aviation Administration, but some other nations do require it.

British regulators announced that the beacon’s batteries are likely to blame for the fire, which temporarily closed the London airport last week. Boeing has added that the beacon can be removed from the Dreamliner in about an hour.

A European regulatory official has also said that the Dreamliner could fly with the emergency beacons temporarily de-activated, despite regulations that require them.

But the British report still begs the question of how the fire started, notes Reuters. Aviation consultant Richard Aboulafia stated:

“This is not really what you call a conclusive answer. There’s nothing about this finding that indicates a lack of safety with the plane, but on the other hand there’s no conclusive proof that a system unrelated to the plane is to blame.”

The fire started last Friday on a parked Ethiopian Airlines jet. In a report about the Dreamliner fire probe published Thursday, Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) announced that aviation regulators should conduct a safety review of all emergency beacons on all aircraft types. The announcement targeted beacons with lithium-manganese batteries, according to Yahoo! News.

The AAIB added that the Dreamliner fire happened in the upper portion of the jet’s rear fuselage, where the locator beacon can be found. The report added, “There are no other aircraft systems in this vicinity which, with the aircraft unpowered, contain stored energy capable of initiating a fire in the area of head damage.”

Boeing supported the AAIB’s findings. It added that it continued to stand by the 787 Dreamliner’s “overall integrity.” This is not the first time the new plane has seen fires. The 787 was grounded worldwide for three months earlier this year after battery fires. That issues has since been fixed.

While the locator beacon is suspected, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fire probe will continue for other potential causes of the blaze.

[Image via Konstantin von Wedelstaedt]