Dreamliner suffers further setback after fire on board

Jan 8, 2013

Much-vaunted Boeing aircraft hit by battery fire in Boston - latest in series of technical problems

EDITORS NOTE, 11 JAN 2013: Since this article was published, the US Federal Aviation Administration has ordered an investigation into the Boeing 787 Dreamliner because of fears over its safety. The review will look at the design and manufacture of the planes.

THE TROUBLED Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft suffered yet another setback in its fledgling existence when a fire broke out on board a Japan Airlines flight shortly after it landed in Boston.

The Dreamliner, which entered service on October 2011, has suffered a series of technical problems and mishaps since its launch as a fuel-efficient eco-friendly plane for the modern age.

The flight from Tokyo had just touched down in Boston when a fire broke out from a battery which had overheated in the belly of the plane. No passengers or crew were hurt, reports the Daily Mail, because they had already disembarked.

However, experts say the incident was serious enough to put another dent in the image of the Dreamliner plane.

"I don't want to be an alarmist, but on-board fires on airplanes are as bad as it gets," Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets said. "Even though it happened on the ground, rest assured the Federal Aviation Administration is asking 'What if it happened in the air?' "

In July 2012 the plane’s British-built Rolls Royce engine failed during tests and Nippon Airways grounded all five of its Dreamliners. There was a problem with the gearbox, and a similar problem was found on another aircraft in September.

In December 2012 there were three incidents in a month. A United Airlines Dreamliner diverted safely to New Orleans after experiencing mechanical problems; Qatar Airways grounded one of its three 787 jets because of the same problem; and on 17 December United reported that a second 787 in its fleet had developed electrical issues.

"This is an extremely serious situation," Kevin Hiatt, a former pilot and vice president with the Flight Safety Foundation, told CNN.

Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said: "We are aware of the event and are working with our customer", while the US National Transportation Safety Board announced it was opening an investigation.

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