Dreamliner fire probe continues

Heathrow airportSmoke was detected from the aircraft after it had been parked at Heathrow for more than eight hours

Investigators are continuing to try to establish the cause of a fire on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Heathrow.

Airline schedules were disrupted as a result of the fire late into the night and will continue on Saturday morning.

A team from Boeing is one of several now looking into what caused the fire on the Ethiopian Airlines plane.

Heathrow’s runways were closed for 90 minutes, causing significant disruption with some evening flights delayed by more than six hours.

Investigators will hope it is not a recurrence of the battery problems that grounded the entire global fleet of 787s for three months earlier this year, said BBC correspondent Richard Lister.

Several aviation experts have suggested that the fire appears to have broken out some distance from the two batteries.

Most Heathrow flights will leave as planned on Saturday morning but delays and cancellations are continuing and the advice for anyone flying from Heathrow is to call the airline.

Flights resumed at Heathrow after the fire on the parked aircraft, named the Queen of Sheba.

A Heathrow spokesman said no passengers were on board at the time of the fire.

Aerial pictures show the plane surrounded by emergency crews

Fifty Dreamliners were grounded in January after malfunctions with the planes’ lithium-ion batteries.

Boeing modified the jets with new batteries and flights resumed in April.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the Department for Transport despatched a team to Heathrow.

London Fire Brigade said its crews assisted Heathrow staff.

Fire-retardant foam was sprayed at the airliner and an area on top of the fuselage in front of the tail appeared to be scorched.

Ethiopian Airlines said smoke was detected from the aircraft after it had been parked at Heathrow for more than eight hours.

Gatwick Airport said it experienced minor delays on departing flights as it assisted Heathrow with flights that were diverted.

Meanwhile, Thomson Airways said one of its Dreamliners travelling to Florida returned to Manchester Airport as a precautionary measure after the plane “experienced a technical issue”.

Thomson became the first British carrier to operate the aircraft earlier this week and is taking delivery of eight of the planes.

British Airways recently took delivery of the first two of its 24 Dreamliners.

Virgin Atlantic said it “remains committed” to taking on the first of its 16 Dreamliners in September 2014.

The battery problems followed production difficulties for the Dreamliner, marketed as a quiet, fuel-efficient aircraft carrying between 201 and 290 passengers on medium-range routes.

It was due to enter passenger service in 2008 but it was not until October 2011 that the first commercial flight was operated by Japan’s All Nippon Airways.

On 7 January, a battery overheated and started a fire on a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Nine days later, an All Nippon Airways 787 had to make an emergency landing in Japan after a battery started to give off smoke.

The two batteries are not used when the 787 is in flight.

They are operational when the plane is on the ground and its engines are not turned on and are used to power the aircraft’s brakes and lights.

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