Battery in Honeywell locator eyed in 787 fire probe: source

Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:45pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa and Alwyn Scott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Investigators are looking into whether the fire on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in London last week was caused by the battery of an emergency locator transmitter built by Honeywell International Inc (HON.N: Quote), according to a source familiar with the probe.

Passengers and investors appeared to take the news in stride, as airlines continued to fly the plane on Monday and Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) shares regained most of what they lost on Friday on news of the fire on a parked 787 at Heathrow airport. Boeing shares closed up 3.7 percent at $105.66.

Honeywell said it had joined the investigation but declined to discuss details beyond saying it had no previous experience of difficulties with this type of transmitter.

Some analysts voiced concern about the impact of another technology problem with the new, high-tech airliner.

The overheating in January of two battery packs that provide backup power to the plane caused regulators to ground the plane for three months and caused fleet-wide retrofits and delivery delays.

"Unless the company can say for sure that the incident is isolated to this particular aircraft, it's not welcome news," said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation consultant with the Virginia-based Teal Group.

"The one systematic problem to plague the Dreamliner is that so many of its technologies are new that it is very difficult for the regulators to fully grasp all the changes," he said.

Boeing only resumed deliveries of the planes in May after one of the plane's lithium-ion batteries caught fire and another overheated, requiring a redesign of the battery system and the retrofitting of more than 50 planes.   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