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Boeing 787 Test Fleet Grounded After Emergency Landing

Boeing 787

November 11, 2010 — Near the end of a six-hour test-flight, one of Boeing’s six 787 test aircraft (ZA002) made an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas after smoke was reported in the rear portion of the cabin. The test version of the aircraft had 42 people on board including various technicians, who were testing a system that pumps inert gas into the fuel tanks to reduce the risk of fires from fuel vapors.

In an updated statement released Thursday (November 11) Boeing reported that a failure of the P100 panel caused nearby insulation to catch fire. When the fault on the panel was cleared the fire "self-extinguished". Damage to the panel, located in an aft electronics bay on the left side of the aircraft, is exstensive. The panel receives power from the left engine and distributes it to an array of systems. In the event of a failure of the P100 panel, backup power sources – including power from the right engine, the Ram Air Turbine, the auxiliary power unit or the battery – are designed to automatically engage to ensure that those systems needed for continued safe operation of the airplane are powered. The backup systems engaged during the incident and the crew retained positive control of the airplane at all times and had the information it needed to perform a safe landing according to the Boeing statement.

Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said that as evaluations of the incident continue they are also working on a repair plan. The test fleet will remain grounded until Boeing is satisfied it is taking the proper steps to resume the test program. Boeing has more than 900 orders for the nearly all-composite airliner; however, the development program has been delayed nearly three years due to various unrelated setbacks, the largest being a redesign of the wing-root to add more strength.

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