Boeing suspends Dreamliner flights after on-board fire

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - Boeing suspended test flights of its 787 Dreamliner planes Wednesday after an electrical fire forced the emergency landing of one of the next-generation passenger jets.

The incident has fanned fears of further delays to the Dreamliner programme, which is already almost three years behind schedule with the first planes due for delivery to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in early 2011.

The latest Dreamliner glitch erupted when a test plane was coming in to land at Laredo, Texas. It lost its regular source of electrical power and the primary backup in the blaze, the Seattle Times reported.

The pilot deployed a ram air turbine, which generates power for the plane’s fly-by-wire electronic controls using the aircraft’s wind speed.

As he executed the emergency landing, the pilot activated the plane’s emergency slides and the 30 to 40 people aboard all evacuated safely.

“If this had happened at 25,000 feet, we might be talking about something much more serious,” a person close to the situation told the paper.

Boeing released a statement early Wednesday that said one minor injury occurred during the evacuation. That crew member was treated and released from a medical facility.

Boeing has sold more than 900 Dreamliners making it the most successful aircraft launch in history. The fuel efficient plane made its maiden flight in December 2009. There are currently six planes in the test fleet.

Boeing engineers are expected to run ground tests to isolate the source of the problem before the planes take to the air again.

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