Saturday August 23, 2014

787 electrical fire adds to list of similar incidents

JAL's first 787 was delivered in November 2012. (Boeing)

A Japan Airlines 787 has suffered a fire in its avionics bay and cockpit while on turnaround at Boston’s Logan Airport when a company mechanic reportedly discovered an exploded battery during a routine post-flight inspection.

The engineer was the sole person on board at the time of the incident, which occurred after the aircraft arrived from Tokyo and had deplaned its 184 passengers and crew.

The JAL incident is the fourth attributed to electrical systems aboard the 787 in what would appear to be more than coincidental, although Boeing’s CEO Jim McNerney reportedly described the incidents as “normal introductory squawks”.

On December 4 a United Airlines 787 en route to Newark from Houston made an emergency landing at New Orleans after one of its onboard generators failed.  On December 13 Qatar Airways reported it had grounded its three 787s as a result of the same problem experienced by United, while on December 17 United said a second 787 in its fleet had experienced electrical problems.

Those events follow the grounding of  the 787 fleet during flight testing when in November 2010 a  fire destroyed a power control panel in flight test aircraft ZA002’s electrical equipment bay.  The panel distributes power from the number one engine before being converted for various onboard applications. The incident caused a succession of systems failures including the loss of primary electrical power, some flightdeck displays and auto throttle control, as well as deployment of the ram air turbine before the aircraft landed and the 43 crew evacuated from the aircraft.

The recent incidents have spurred the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the causes, while the FAA will continue its own investigations into the events.