Monday 25 September 2017

Dreamliner blaze at Heathrow sparks new concerns

David Mercer, Tim Moynihan and Neil Lancefield

An air accident investigation is under way after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire at Heathrow Airport in London.

The aircraft, which has been plagued with problems since its launch, caught fire while on a remote parking stand, a Heathrow spokesman said.

Nobody was on board at the time of the incident and there were no injuries, he added.

Runways were closed to all flights for an hour and a half yesterday while emergency crews dealt with the incident, causing diversions and long delays for passengers.

Meanwhile, Thomson Airways said a Dreamliner flight from Manchester to Florida had to be diverted back to the UK earlier yesterday due to a "technical issue".

Boeing temporarily withdrew the Dreamliner from service earlier this year for modifications after concerns that batteries on board could cause fires.

The fire appeared to have caused damage to the top of the plane's fuselage. An Air Accidents Investigation Branch spokesman said it had sent a team to investigate.

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."

DIFFICULTIES

Boeing shares fell sharply on the New York Stock Exchange after news broke of the incident.

Thomson Airways became the first UK carrier to operate the Dreamliner earlier this week, and is taking delivery of eight of the planes. The firm had to scrap plans to use the aircraft in May, and only received its first plane in June.

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

It should have entered service in 2008 but it was not until October 2011 that the first commercial flight was operated by Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways.

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