Boeing says 787 test flight fire traced to insulation

By Dow Jones Newswires-Wall Street Journal
Posted Nov. 12, 2010 at 5:42 a.m.

Two days after an in-flight fire aboard one of Boeing Co.’s new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, the company said the origin of the fire had been traced to insulation blanketing located underneath the cabin floor.

In a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Boeing said a failure of the P100 power panel on the left side of the plane led to a fire in the surrounding insulation material.

The failure of that electric panel, which receives power from the left engine, caused some critical systems aboard the plane to stop working, but Boeing says emergency backup systems performed as expected.

The P100 is one of several panels in the aft electronics bay just behind the wing and underneath the passenger cabin.

Boeing didn’t indicate when it would return the six-plane test fleet to the air after suspending test flights on Wednesday. Nor did the Chicago-based aerospace giant say how the mishap would affect the Dreamliner program’s overall certification and delivery schedule, which is now nearly three years behind schedule.

The fire, discovered while the test plane was on final approach to the Laredo, Texas, airport on Tuesday afternoon, required an emergency evacuation by the 42 people on board. One person suffered minor injuries during the evacuation, Boeing said.

The plane was at the tail-end of a six-hour test flight. The testing involved a nitrogen system designed to provide additional explosion-prevention safeguards in the plane’s fuel tanks. The fire did not involve the nitrogen system, Boeing said.

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