Boeing Urges More Jet Beacon Checks After 787 Faults Found
Boeing Co. (BA) has asked airlines to inspect emergency beacons on a range of planes after ANA Holdings Inc. (9202) and United Airlines found faults in devices on 787s linked to a fire in a parked Dreamliner.
The aircraft maker asked operators to inspect aircraft with fixed emergency locater transmitters from Honeywell International Inc. (HON), Randy Tinseth, a Boeing marketing vice president, said on a blog yesterday. Planes to be checked include Boeing 717, next-generation 737, 747-400, 767 and 777 aircraft.
ANA, the biggest operator of 787s, already started checks on other planes with Honeywell beacons last week after completing inspections on its fleet of Dreamliners, said Maho Ito, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman at the carrier. Boeing’s recommendation spreads the investigation beyond the 787, which was prevented from flying for three months earlier this year following two cases of lithium-ion batteries melting, in the first global grounding of a model since 1979.
The inspections are to “gather data to support potential rulemaking by regulators,” Tinseth wrote. The beacons are separate from flight and voice data recorders, known as black boxes, which have their own location transmitters.
Investigators are trying to determine whether two wires smashed under a cover on an emergency locater transmitter, or 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.
Steve Brecken, a spokesman for Honeywell, didn’t immediately return telephone and e-mail messages left seeking comment.
Tokyo-based ANA has completed checks on eight of 38 planes it is inspecting, Ito said. Japan Airlines Co. (9201), the second-largest operator of Dreamliners, doesn’t have Honeywell beacons on models other than the 787, Kazunori Kidosaki, a spokesman at the carrier, said by phone in Tokyo today.
Boeing is taking the action after the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch recommended airplanes with fixed Honeywell beacons be inspected, Tinseth said. There have been about 6,000 of the Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell beacons installed on aircraft, according to the AAIB.
ANA last week found a dented wire in a fixed beacon and another in a portable beacon and removed all beacons from eight 787s used on domestic routes. United also found a pinched wire in a beacon, which it replaced and returned to the manufacturer for evaluation, Christen David, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based airline, said last week.
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 the 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 last 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 last week.
Boeing 787 operators must check the jets’ emergency locater transmitters made by Honeywell, the European Aviation Safety Agency said last week 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 on July 26, 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 also asked airlines to check the beacons on 787s.
United, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL), 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.