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Dreamliner catches fire at Heathrow

Friday, 12 July 2013 00:00

Flight have resumed at London's Heathrow Airport after a fire on a parked Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet.

All runways were closed for nearly 90 minutes after the fire at 16:30 BST. No passengers were aboard the plane at the time, a Heathrow spokesman said.

Fifty Dreamliners worldwide were grounded in January after malfunctions with the plane's lithium-ion batteries.

Boeing modified the jets with new batteries and flights resumed in April.

The Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner in the Heathrow incident - named the Queen of Sheba - flew from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on the first commercial flight since the grounding.

Pictures of the Heathrow fire showed the Queen of Sheba close to a building and surrounded by fire vehicles. London Fire Brigade said its crews assisted Heathrow staff.

Fire-retardant foam appeared to have been sprayed at the airliner, but no damage was immediately apparent.

Production difficulties

A Heathrow spokesman said: "Heathrow's runways are now fully open following an earlier fire on board an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft which the airport's emergency services attended.

"The aircraft was parked on a remote parking stand and there were no passengers on board. Arrivals and departures were temporarily suspended while airport fire crews attended to this incident.

"This is a standard procedure if fire crews are occupied with an incident."

Heathrow reopened shortly before 18:00 BST but was advising passengers to check the status of their flights with the airlines.

Gatwick Airport said it was experiencing minor delays on departing flights as it assisted Heathrow with flights that were diverted.

Meanwhile, Thomson Airways said one of its Dreamliners travelling to Florida returned to Manchester Airport as a precautionary measure, not connected to the Heathrow fire.

Thomson, which became the first British carrier to operate the aircraft earlier this week, and is taking delivery of eight of the planes, said the plane had "experienced a technical issue".

British Airways is due to take delivery of the first two of its 24 Dreamliners.

Virgin Atlantic said it "remains committed" to taking on the first of its 16 Dreamliners in September 2014.

The battery problems followed production difficulties for the Dreamliner, marketed as a quiet, fuel-efficient aircraft carrying between 201 and 290 passengers on medium-range routes.

It was due to enter passenger service in 2008 but it was not until October 2011 that the first commercial flight was operated by Japan's All Nippon Airways.

The groundings of all Dreamliners in service in January followed two major incidents concerning the plane's two lithium-ion batteries.

On 7 January, a battery overheated and started a fire on a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport. Nine days later, an All Nippon Airways 787 had to make an emergency landing in Japan after a battery started to give off smoke.

The two batteries are not used when the 787 is in flight.

They are operational when the plane is on the ground and its engines are not turned on, and are used to power the aircraft's brakes and lights.

In addition to new versions of the batteries which run at a much cooler temperature, they are now enclosed in stainless steel boxes.

Boeing shares fell more than 6% on the New York Stock Exchange on news of the fire.

A Boeing spokesman said: "We're aware of the event. We have Boeing personnel on the ground at Heathrow and are working to fully understand and address this."



Source: BBC