Scrutiny of 787 fire ramps up; Boeing shares fall

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 8, 2013 at 5:33 pm •  Published: January 8, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal safety investigators intensified their scrutiny of a Monday fire aboard a Boeing 787 as concerned investors sold shares in the aircraft maker for a second day.

Boeing on Tuesday confirmed that the fire aboard a Japan Airlines plane appeared to have started in a battery pack for the plane's auxiliary power unit.

The National Transportation Safety Board described the fire damage to the battery as "severe," and said it is sending two more investigators to examine the Japan Airlines plane. It also formed investigative groups to look at the plane's electrical systems as well as the fire response.

Boeing has a lot riding on the 787. The long-range jet promises a smoother travel experience and is 20 percent more fuel efficient than older models. After years of delays, Boeing has now delivered 49 of the planes, with almost 800 more on order.

The fire on Monday happened on the ground at Boston Logan International Airport, with no passengers on board. But in-flight fires can be catastrophic, so the matter is getting close scrutiny by aviation authorities.

Interest is especially high in this fire because of indications that lithium batteries — which generally have not been used on large planes before the 787 — can burn very hot, with fires that are difficult to put out. The NTSB said it took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the fire near the back of the plane.

JAL spokeswoman Carol Anderson said the airline inspected its 787s after the fire. She declined to discuss the results, but noted that no schedule changes were made as a result of the inspections.

United Airlines said it inspected its six 787s overnight. A spokeswoman would not say what the inspections found. The Wall Street Journal reported that the inspections found an improperly installed bundle of wires connected to the same battery that burned on the on the JAL plane.