Boeing 787: more damaged transponder wires found

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has had a series of serious problems related to electrical systems. The fleet was grounded for months earlier this year, after the Li-Ion battery fires in Boston and in Japan. Then, just seven weeks after resuming flights, a fire on July 12th seriously damaged a parked Ethiopian Airlines B787, and shut down London’s Heathrow Airport. That made the news, of course, and Boeing stock fell 7% before recovering.

Emergency crew surrounds a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, which caught fire at Britain’s Heathrow airport in this July 12, 2013 still image taken from video.

The latest fire location was far from the batteries, but in the immediate proximity to where the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) beacon is installed on the B787. In the week that followed the Heathrow fire, blame was being tipped away from the B787 (and Boeing) and toward Honeywell, manufacturer of the ELT unit.

Now, two weeks after the Heathrow fire, British investigators are focusing on two leading theories: (1) that the ELT was installed with possible pinched wires, which might initiate a short circuit; and (2) that the higher humidity levels within the plastic B787 fuselage may be increasing the probability that irregularities such as pinched wires will evolve into full-blown electrical problems, even fires.

The fire damage was just over the rear door.

The largest fleet of B787’s is operated by Japan’s ANA Holdings, Inc (All Nippon). ANA removed the ELT units from its eight domestic-route 787’s and inspected the ELT units in its twelve international-route 787’s. In the process, ANA found two units with slightly damaged wires, and shipped these units to Honeywell for further inspection.

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Some links to related articles:

  • 7-26-2013Airline says it found faulty beacon wiring in Boeing 787
    …ANA found two ELT’s with slightly damaged wires. This article also has links to a good timeline on B787 problems.
  • 7-26-2013A timeline of troubles: Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner
    …The timeline spans from 10/26/11 (when the first commercial passenger flight was made by ANA) to 7/19/13 (when FAA announced it would soon order inspection of all ELT’s due to the Heathrow fire).
  • 7-15-2013A Question About My Old Car and The 787
    …A simple and reasonable analysis of how extreme conditions reveal weaknesses in old cars. Andrew Boydston asks: “Is the strong electric systems and new technology making the 787 an old airplane fast?”
  • Winging It (blog)A link to the blog
    …Andrew Boydston’s blog. There is a lot of interesting data and analysis on the airlines, the Boeing 787, and other topics.

UPDATE: 7-27-2013 — FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive requiring inspection.