Boeing 787 fire at Boston airport renews safety concern


Fire broke out on an empty Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner jet parked at a gate in Boston on Monday, putting safety concerns about the new, carbon-composite jet back in the spotlight and drawing attention from federal investigators.

Officials said the fire started when a battery in the Japan Airlines Co Ltd jet's auxiliary power system exploded around 10:30 a.m. ET, shortly after passengers deplaned.

A mechanic inspecting the jet discovered smoke in the cockpit while performing a routine post-flight inspection and reported it to authorities at Boston's Logan International Airport, officials said.

"Japan Airlines spokeswoman Carol Anderson later said smoke was not discovered in the cockpit. "Smoke was initially discovered by a maintenance staff in the rear end of the cabin, and confirmed by another maintenance staff who also detected smoke outside the aircraft," she said in an email.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are looking into what caused the problem, which came just weeks after Boeing endured a string of other electrical problems that briefly grounded three of the planes. The new jet also has suffered an engine failure and fuel leaks in the 14 months it has been in service.

"I don't want to be an alarmist," said Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets in Virginia. "But onboard fires on airplanes are as bad as it gets. Even though it happened on the ground, rest assured the FAA is asking 'What if it happened in the air?'"

The Chicago-based jet maker's shares closed down 2 percent at $76.13 after the news.

The electrical fire is troubling in part because the 787 relies heavily on electrical power to drive onboard systems that in other jet models are run by air pressure generated by the engines.

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