787 emergency: smoke fills Dreamliner cabin

Last updated 13:20 08/01/2013
Dreamliner 787

ALERT: The Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet aircraft is surrounded by emergency vehicles at Logan International Airport in Boston.

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An electrical fire has filled the cabin of a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 with smoke minutes after passengers disembarked in Boston following a flight from Tokyo.

The Massachusetts fire chief said the fire at Boston's Logan Airport began in a battery pack in the unit that runs the jet's electrical systems when it's not getting power from its engines.

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, fire chief Bob Donahue said. There was a flare-up later when a battery exploded.

"Something caused this battery pack to overheat, ignite," he said.

The flight landed normally today (NZT). Its 173 passengers and 11 crew had already disembarked when a mechanic spotted smoke in the cockpit and cabin about 15 minutes later.

"When we arrived, it was a heavy smoke, and that was in three minutes," Donahue said.

The mechanic was the only person on board when the fire broke out.

The 787 is Boeing's newest plane. The first was delivered in late 2011. In November 2010, a test flight had to make an emergency landing after an electrical fire. The fire delayed flight tests for several weeks while Boeing investigated.

Last month, a United Airlines 787 flying from Houston to Newark diverted to New Orleans because of an electrical problem with a power distribution panel.

The 787 uses two lithium ion batteries.

The rechargeable batteries, widely used in consumer devices, have some pilots worried because batteries being shipped as cargo are suspected to have caused or contributed to the severity of fires in cargo planes.

When Boeing proposed using the batteries in the 787, the Federal Aviation Administration issued special rules, including a requirement that they be designed to prevent overheating.

Boeing has delivered 49 787s, including seven to Japan Airlines. Another 799 have been ordered by airlines worldwide.

The US National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the fire.

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- AP

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