Boeing, rival Airbus to check distress beacons after fire

Boeing and rival Airbus said Monday they would check distress beacons made by Honeywell on their planes, after the device was identified as the likely cause of a fire on a Boeing Dreamliner.

Some 6,000 so-called emergency locator transmitters (ELT), designed to help localise the plane if it crashes, have been installed on Boeings like the 787 Dreamliner as well as Airbus aircraft, though none have been involved in a blaze before.

British authorities have recommended that the beacons on Dreamliners be disabled, after identifying the devices as the likely cause of the fire that took place on an empty Ethiopian Airlines plane in London's Heathrow on July 12. No one was injured.

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But the US firm has decided to broaden the checks to all its planes, and its European rival Airbus will also inspect the beacons on its aircraft.

"Boeing is asking some companies operating 717, 737 NG, 747-400, 767 and 777 (models) to inspect their planes that are equipped with emergency locator transmitters made by Honeywell," the US giant said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Airbus, meanwhile, said the group's records "do not show any incidents of this nature."

"However, as a precautionary measure, we will do an additional review of the integration of the device in order to determine whether there is a need to apply any lessons from the AAIB (British Air Accidents Investigation Branch) findings."

Investigators are seeking to determine whether the beacon itself caused the fire on the plane, which was parked and stationary when it happened, or whether its surroundings triggered the incident.

The blaze is a further blow to Boeing, which withdrew from service its entire fleet of Dreamliners for several months earlier this year due to separate concerns that lithium-ion batteries on board could cause fires.

In a preliminary report on the blaze, the AAIB said that detailed analysis of the beacon on the new generation plane had shown "some indications of disruption to the battery cells".

Both US and European aviation regulators have ordered airlines to remove or inspect the Honeywell-made beacons on all their 787 planes.

So far, Japan's All Nippon Airways and US firm United Airlines have found damage to the battery wirings on several 787 emergency beacons.

© 2013 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Jul 29, 2013