Fuselage panel falls from Boeing 787 Dreamliner in flight


(Corrects day of panel falling off to Saturday in the firstparagraph)

SEATTLE, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Boeing Co said a bodypanel fell off of a 787 Dreamliner operated by Air India whilethe plane was in flight on Saturday, a new problem for thehigh-tech jet that has suffered a string of mishaps since itsintroduction two years ago.

Boeing said the loss of the fuselage panel posed no safetyrisk to passengers. It was not immediately known where the panellanded.

The jet was carrying 148 people, including crew, on a flightfrom Delhi to Bangalore, The Times of India newspaper reported. The pilots did not realize the eight-by-four-foot panel wasmissing until after the flight landed, the newspaper said,adding that India's aviation authorities are investigating.

Boeing said the missing panel fell from the underside of theplane on the right side. A photo on The Times of India websiteshowed a large opening with components and aircraft structurevisible inside.

"It was the mid-underwing-to-body fairing located on thebelly of the airplane on the right side," Boeing spokesman DougAlder said. The part "provides a more aerodynamic surface inflight."

He said Boeing is working to understand what caused thepanel to fall and declined to say whether the plane was made atBoeing's South Carolina factory. A number of Air India jets havecome from that assembly line.

The Times of India said the panel was replaced with onetaken from a just-delivered 787 Dreamliner that was not yetready for service. That plane is now awaiting a spare part, thepaper said.

Problems that have afflicted the 787 include batteryoverheating that prompted regulators to ground the entire fleetin January. Flights resumed in April. Despite the problems,Boeing's stock has stayed near record levels. It closed Tuesdayat $118.18, down $1.28. (Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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