8 Jan 2013

Fire in 'Dreamliner' 787 under scrutiny

11:00 pm on 8 January 2013

Japan Airlines says that a fire broke out in one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, shortly after it landed in Boston, following a flight from Tokyo.

The fire started after a battery in the jet's auxiliary power system overheated.

The airline said that no passengers or crew members were hurt as they had already disembarked.

This is the latest setback for the Dreamliner, after production delays and several technical problems.

The Dreamliner is reported to be a key hope for Air New Zealand's long-haul routes.

The airline's chief executive Christopher Luxon said last June that the eventual addition of Boeing's more fuel efficient and lighter Dreamliner planes to its fleet from the middle of 2014 will help counter higher fuel costs.

"Smoke was initially discovered by maintenance staff in the rear end of the cabin, and confirmed by another maintenance staff who also detected smoke outside the aircraft," Carol Anderson a spokeswoman for Japan Airlines said.

Meanwhile, Doug Alder, a spokesman for Boeing was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that the plane maker was "aware of the situation" and that it was "working with the airline to understand more about it right now."

The Dreamliner is one of the most advanced planes ever built. However, a spate of technical issues has hurt its image, the BBC reports.

Last year, a United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing due to an electrical problem.

In December, Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787 Dreamliners after several manufacturing faults caused electric problems similar to those that affected the United plane.

To add to Boeing's woes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in December that it had identified errors in the assembly of fuel line couplings, in the Dreamliner.

It warned that these errors could result in fuel leaking on to hot engine parts and start a fire, cause engine failure, or simply see the plane run out of fuel.

Analysts said the latest incident on the Japan Airlines flight was a major blow to Boeing.

"I don't want to be an alarmist, but onboard fires on airplanes are as bad as it gets," said Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets in Virginia.

"Even though it happened on the ground, rest assured the FAA is asking 'What if it happened in the air?"