(BOSTON) — A fire broke out on an empty Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet in Boston’s Logan Airport after a non-stop flight from Tokyo, prompting more safety concerns about the new plane since its 2011 release.
The incident occurred Monday morning when an electrical fire broke out on board the Japan Airlines jet 30 minutes after 173 passengers and 11 crew members exited the plane. The Massachusetts Port Authority’s fire chief, Bob Donahue, said the fire began in a battery pack for the plane’s auxiliary power unit, which runs the jet’s electrical systems when it’s not getting power from its engines.
No major injuries were reported and one firefighter had skin irritation after contact with a chemical used to douse the fire, Donahue said.
The flight landed incident-free around 10:15 a.m., but a mechanic working in the cockpit was confronted minutes later by smoke billowing from electrical systems in the belly of the plane.
“We observed a heavy smoke condition throughout the entire cabin,” Donahue said.
Fire crews using infrared equipment found flames in a small compartment in the plane’s belly and had the fire out in about 20 minutes, he said. There was a flare-up later when a battery exploded, he added.
Japan Airlines said in a statement, “Safety is the foundation of JAL’s operations and while no passengers were injured in this incident, we deeply apologize for causing our customers concern and inconvenience. We are now working closely with NTSB and Boeing in determining the cause of this incident.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said it’s sending an investigator to Boston.
“We’re aware of the situation and are working with our customer,” Boeing said in a statement.
Boeing has sold more than 800 of the planes around the world with only six flying domestically. The plane, mostly made of carbon fiber, was first released in 2011.
The Federal Aviation Administration last month ordered inspections of potential fuel-line leaks on all 787s. On the same day the inspection was ordered, a United Airlines 787 flight from Houston to Newark, N.J., was diverted to New Orleans because of a generator failure. A similar fire broke out during the 787’s testing phase in 2010.
“This event occurred in the same avionics bay where they had problems before,” said John Hansman, MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics. “So it raises a lot of questions that will be looked at as quickly as possible.”
But Hansman believes this is just a new plane built differently with new systems and materials.
“I wouldn’t be concerned as a passenger. This is a very good airplane, but it’s very advanced. It’s pushing the envelope,” he said.
Airlines are buying the new planes because they’re cheaper to fly and more efficient, but they’re going to sell would-be passengers on feature comforts such as the air itself.
Because the plane is made of plastic, it is more flexible so air pressure inside the plane can be kept higher. The maker says the improvement in air pressure leads to less jet lag, as well as less dry mouth and skin for passengers.
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