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Early Evidence Suggests Boeing 787 Fire Was Not Related To Battery Issues

Alex Davies

The source of a fire on an empty Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 in London today has not been determined, but early photos from the scene do not line up with damage done by the failures of the jet's lithium ion batteries earlier this year.

Photos from London show damage to the outside of the plane, near its tail — not close to any of the battery locations. The damaged area is circled in yellow this diagram:

NTSB boeing dreamliner investigation battery locations
NTSB boeing dreamliner investigation battery locations


As NYCAviation's Jason Rabinowitz points out, that "is inconsistent with the fire damage" from the fire that started in the battery, in the belly of a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston, on January 7.

Guy Norris, who has authored multiple books about the Boeing 787, wrote on Aviation Week that today's images "show that the blaze was probably not connected with the lithium-ion battery problems which grounded the aircraft earlier this year."

David Kaminski-Morrow, editor of Flight Global, noted on Twitter that batteries (especially ones in a newly designed container) are not the only things on a plane that can catch on fire:

Plenty of things on an aircraft which can burn and which aren't sat in a newly-designed metal containment box. #Ethiopian #787

— David KaminskiMorrow (@FlightDKM) July 12, 2013

Furthermore, Ethiopians Airlines said in a statement today that the 787 had been parked for eight hours before the fire started, making it less likely that an overheating battery is to blame.

In the two battery failure incidents in January, one plane was in the air and had to make an emergency landing, and the other had just touched down when the fire broke out.

Here's a photo from London:

RT @raisinganchor: #Ethiopian Airlines Tail section damage on #Boeing 787 #Damage at #HeathrowAirport #Dreamliners pic.twitter.com/sI84mybgEM

— Jason Rabinowitz (@AirlineFlyer) July 12, 2013

And here's what the Japan Airlines 787 looked like, after its battery overheated on January 7:

japan airline boeing dreamliner 787 fire boston
japan airline boeing dreamliner 787 fire boston


From what we've seen so far, the details don't match.

News of the fire sent Boeing stock plummeting by as much as 6.5%, and investigators are headed to London to find out what happened.

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