Boeing shares rise after Dreamliner fire probe focuses on beacon
Jets could fly with locator beacons temporarily deactivated, European regulatory official says
The Air Ethiopian Boeing 787 Dreamliner ‘Queen of Sheba’ at Heathrow Airport in London. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
British regulators investigating the fire on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner identified the aircraft’s emergency locator beacon as a likely source of the blaze and said today it should be switched off, spurring a rally in shares from relieved investors.
Boeing said the beacon could be removed in about an hour from its newest model aircraft, which was grounded for more than three months earlier this year due to a battery issue that regulators said was unrelated to the fire on an Ethiopian Airlines jet in London a week ago.
US Federal Aviation Administration regulations do not require the transmitter but some other nations’ regulations do, the aircraft maker said in a statement backing the British report.
A European regulatory official said the jets could fly with the locator beacons temporarily deactivated, despite regulations mandating them in most commercial situations.
Analysts cautioned that the British report still left open the question of how the fire actually started.
“This is not really what you call a conclusive answer,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation consultant with the Teal Group. “There’s nothing about this finding that indicates a lack of safety with the plane, but on the other hand there’s no conclusive proof that a system unrelated to the plane is to blame.”
The beacons, made by US conglomerate Honeywell, are positioned in the upper rear part of the advanced jets, and send a signal that leads rescuers to downed aircraft. They are powered by non-rechargeable lithium-manganese batteries.
Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch is leading the investigation into a blaze that broke out on a parked Ethiopian Airlines jet at London’s Heathrow airport last Friday. Its report, published today, also said aviation regulators should conduct a safety review of lithium-powered emergency locator beacons in all aircraft types. – (Reuters)