LONDON - A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Ethiopian Airlines caught fire at Britain's Heathrow airport on Friday in a fresh blow for the US planemaker whose new model was grounded for three months after one high-tech battery caught fire and another overheated.
External scorching from the fire was located in a different part of the aircraft from the bays containing batteries, and the cause of the fire was unknown.
Boeing shares closed down 4.7 per cent at US$101.87 (S$128.60), knocking US$3.8 billion off the company's market capitalisation after television footage showed the Dreamliner surrounded by firefighting foam 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.
Pictures of the plane at Heathrow showed an area just in front of the tail that appeared to be scorched.
The Dreamliner's two batteries are in electrical compartments located low down and near the front and middle of the plane, while the visible damage to the Ethiopian plane appears to be on top of the fuselage, further toward the rear, according to video from the scene.
"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 metres away from any passenger terminals."
Former US 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.
"It's very early. No one knows where the fire started at this point," Rosenker told Reuters, adding it could be something as simple as a coffee pot left on in a galley.
Boeing said it was aware of the fire and it had people on the ground working to understand the causes of it. The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was in contact with Boeing.
A spokesman for GS Yuasa, which makes the Dreamliner batteries, said he had not received any information on the London fire.
|Boeing Dreamliner catches fire
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: Reuters, AFP)