Planes are not supposed to catch fire while sitting waiting eight hours between flights. Yet this is what happened to An Ethiopian Airline’s Boeing 787 at 1550h (330pm) on Friday in London while the aircraft was parked at a remote stand. There were no passengers aboard the plane. Heathrow Airport closed both its runways for 90 minutes. 42 short haul flights were cancelled and some flights were delayed for six hours.
It is just on six months since fire broke out aboard an empty Japan Airlines 787 whil it was standing in Boston on January 7. After that, an ANA 787 made an emergency landing in Japan after smoke was reported to be seen inside the cockpit on January 16. All 787s were grounded for a period of three months.
The Ethiopian Airlines 787 (Serial Number ET-AOP) called “Queen of Sheba” which caught fire at Heathrow was delivered last November. It had arrived at Heathrow at 512am from Addis Ababa as Flight 700. It was due to make the return journey later on Friday.
The U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch have called this a “serious incident”said the fire caused “extensive heat damage in the upper portion of the rear fuselage“. They said that this fire was not related to the batteries which were the cause of the previous fires on the Dreamliner.
Ethiopian airlines said they would keep their other three 787s in service. Interestingly, they were the first airline to start flying their 787s after the recent grounding. All other airlines have kept their 787s flying. The same day,however, a Thomson Airways Dreamliner returned to Manchester as a precaution after technical issues.
The AAIB said that their investigation will include:
the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the USA (representing the State of Design and Manufacture)
the Civil Aviation Authority of Ethiopia (representing the State of Registry and Operator)
the Federal Aviation Administration
Boeing Commercial Airplanes
The EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and the UK CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) as advisors
Boeing shares fell seven per cent upon the news with investors clearly spooked.
Most new planes have teething problems. With the 787, every incident seems to be magnified and reported and re-reported. These fires are not minor incidents, however. One wonders how much longer before the public will start to avoid the 787? When will pilots start asking questions?
April 6: 787 in weeks???
March 30: Boeing calls for 787s to fly
March 23: 787 Testing
March 16: 787 Battery Fix?
March 8: No 787 for a long, long time
February 23: Where can you find a 787?
February 16: 787 situation gets more serious