Boeing Dreamliner catches fire at Britain's Heathrow airport

Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:36pm EDT
 
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By Rhys Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Ethiopian Airlines caught fire at Britain's Heathrow airport on Friday in a fresh blow for the U.S. planemaker which earlier this year was forced to ground the new planes for three months because of overheating batteries.

Boeing shares closed down 4.7 percent at $101.87. Earlier in the session they tumbled as much as 7 percent, wiping $5.4 billion off its market capitalization after television footage showed the Dreamliner surrounded by foam used by firefighters at Heathrow.

Heathrow briefly closed both its runways to deal with the fire which broke out while the aircraft was parked at a remote stand. There were no passengers aboard the plane.

Television footage showed an area on the fuselage in front of the tail that appeared to be scorched.

"A Boeing 787 Dreamliner suffered an on board internal fire," a Heathrow spokeswoman said. "The plane is now parked at a remote parking stand several hundred meters away from any passenger terminals."

It was not clear if the fire was related to the batteries, which were the cause of the previous incidents that led to the grounding of the Dreamliner in January.

The Dreamliner's two battery compartments are low down, according to public Boeing diagrams, while the visible damage to the Ethiopian plane appears to be higher up and further towards the rear, according to footage from the scene.

Former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said the Heathrow incident was extraordinary news, coming so soon after the fleet had returned to service, but he cautioned against jumping to conclusions.   Continued...

 
Emergency services attend to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, after it caught fire at Britain's Heathrow airport in west London July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville