Following the recent fire on an Ethiopian Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner, safety experts have recommended that a potentially vulnerable piece of equipment be rendered "inert" until airworthiness checks have been carried out.
After investigating the fire on the Dreamliner — known as the "plastic plane" because of its high composite content — which was parked on the ground at London's Heathrow airport earlier this month the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) concluded that an area near the aircraft's emergency locator transmitter (ELT) — a distress beacon device — had been subjected to "extensive heat damage."
It was not clear, AAIB said, whether the fire near the ELT was caused by its lithium batteries or by an adjacent electrical fault.
However AAIB recommended that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration "initiate immediate action for making inert the [unit]…until appropriate airworthiness can be completed."
In a second recommendation the board suggested that FAA "conduct a safety review of installations of lithium-powered ELT systems in other aircraft types and, where appropriate, initiate airworthiness action."
The July 12 Heathrow fire was the latest setback for Boeing and the Dreamliner, which has been beset by problems since its launch last year.