United Airlines found a pinched wire in an emergency beacon on one of its Boeing Co. (BA:US) 787s, making it at least the second carrier to discover such a fault in the component linked to this month’s fire in a parked Dreamliner.
The emergency locator transmitter was replaced and returned to manufacturer Honeywell International Inc. (HON:US) for evaluation, Christen David, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based United, said in an e-mail. ANA Holdings Inc. (9202) said earlier that it discovered a damaged wire on a 787 flown in Japan.
The airlines’ discoveries may intensify the focus of investigators trying to determine whether two wires smashed under a cover on the ELT caused a short-circuit that triggered the blaze on an Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise 787 at London’s Heathrow airport, according to a person familiar with the probe.
ANA also found a dented wire in a separate portable beacon and is sending the equipment to Honeywell for checks, Megumi Tezuka, an airline spokeswoman, said yesterday by telephone in Tokyo. The carrier has removed all beacons from the eight 787s it uses on domestic routes, she said.
Japan’s largest airline is continuing normal operations of its 12 Dreamliners flying on international routes after completing checks on their beacons, which are used to help rescuers locate an aircraft in the event of a crash.
The fire in the Ethiopian Airlines’ transmitter, which runs off a lithium battery, renewed concern that the 787 was at risk from electrical faults after two meltdowns in a different type of lithium battery in January. Those incidents, involving batteries that are part of the plane’s power system, spurred a three-month grounding of the global Dreamliner fleet to fix the flaw.
Qatar Airways Ltd. said on Saturday that one of its 787 aircraft has been grounded since Monday because of a “minor” technical problem. A spokeswoman for the Doha-based carrier, who asked not to be named as per company policy, said the issue was not a fire and was discovered when the plane was on the ground. She declined to give further details.
Separately, Norwegian Air Shuttle AS (NAS) followed Boeing instructions on transmitter removal after getting approval from its civil aviation authority, the Oslo-based carrier said in an e-mailed statement.
Boeing 787 operators must check the jets’ emergency locator transmitters made by Honeywell, the European Aviation Safety Agency said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.
Airlines must “either remove or inspect the Honeywell ELT, and take corrective actions if necessary,” the region’s safety regulator said, following its U.S. counterpart after the July 12 fire in London.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered on July 25 that the Dreamliners’ ELTs be inspected and said it may take steps affecting thousands of identical beacons on other models. Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau said yesterday that it was asking airlines to check the beacons.
Honeywell supports the FAA action “and will continue to collaborate on the investigation into the source of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 fire,” Steve Brecken, a spokesman, said by e-mail.
United, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL:US), completed inspections on the rest of its Dreamliners without interrupting schedules, and is in compliance with the airworthiness directive issued by the FAA, David said.
Japan Airlines Co. (9201), the nation’s other operator of 787s, said earlier this week that it had completed checks of beacons and was flying its fleet of nine planes as usual after confirming their safety.
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