787 fire investigation nearing completion

ReutersJanuary 9, 2014 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday that investigative work on a battery fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet in January 2013 would be completed by the end of March.

The agency gave no indications about the cause of the fire and said its final report on the incident at Boston Logan International Airport would be presented at a public meeting in Washington, D.C., in the fall.

Members of the investigative team have been working for months in the United States, Japan, France, and Taiwan in their study of the Dreamliner battery and charging system.

Regulators grounded the global fleet of Boeing Dreamliners for 31/2 months after the Jan. 7, 2013, incident at the Boston airport and a second battery incident on an All Nippon Airways flight in Japan several days later that prompted an emergency landing and evacuation.

The Boston fire was discovered by a mechanic who was performing a routine post-flight inspection and was the only person aboard at the time. Firefighters responded and contained the blaze.

Crew aboard the ANA flight reported smelling smoke, but the incident was never officially ruled a fire.

The NTSB investigation only covers the Boston fire, though the U.S. agency has assisted Japan’s Transport Safety Board with its investigation.

The Dreamliner, launched in 2004, offered lower fuel and maintenance costs through use of lightweight materials and new construction methods, including global outsourcing of its major components.

Assembly lags put the jet into service in 2011, more than three years behind schedule. And it has been plagued by problems, often involving its advanced electrical system.

Both United Airlines and Qatar Airways had electrical trouble on 787s before the Boston fire and another Japan Airlines Dreamliner experienced fuel leaks.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration launched a wide-ranging review of the 787’s design, manufacturing and assembly after the Boston fire.

Meanwhile, Boeing overhauled the battery system, adding a steel box to contain any future fires and a venting system to expel fumes outside the jet.

In April, the FAA approved the revamped battery system and Boeing began making repairs to the 50 787s around the world.

Since then, the global fleet has grown to 100, as Boeing has stepped up deliveries to customers.

Airlines order 136 Boeing 737 jetliners

Three airlines have ordered a total of 136 Boeing 737 jetliners to kick off the 2014 sales season.

At list prices, those Renton-built planes are worth more than $13 billion.

The biggest order came from flydubai, which ordered 75 737 Max 8 airliners and 11 737-800 planes. That order also includes purchase rights for 25 more 737 Max aircraft.

The airline’s commitment was first announced earlier this fall at the Dubai Air Show. The formal order followed recently.

The 737 Max aircraft include new engines and aerodynamic improvements that Boeing says will improve fuel efficiency 14 percent over the best single-aisle airliners now being built.

The first of those 737 Max aircraft are due to be delivered to Southwest Airlines in 2017.

The second-largest order reportedly came from India’s SpiceJet, which ordered 42 737 Max aircraft, according to Reuters.

SpiceJet has taken options on 42 more of the planes, the report said.

SpiceJet is a growing budget airline in India, where air travel is growing sharply.

The third order came from Air Algerie. That airline ordered eight Boeing 737-800 planes worth $724 million at list costs.

The airline expects to receive the planes by 2016.

John Gillie, staff writer

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