FAA Instructs Airlines to Remove or Inspect Boeing 787 Beacons

July 26, 2013

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday instructed airlines to remove or inspect emergency beacons in Boeing Co’s 787 Dreamliners, following a fire earlier this month that was traced to one of the units, made by Honeywell International Inc.

The airworthiness directive goes farther than the guidance from the FAA last week, when it said airlines should inspect the units on 787s for pinched wires in the casing and evidence of heat or moisture. The agency is now aligned with Boeing, which advised airlines last week to inspect or remove the device, known as an emergency locator transmitter or ELT.

The issue arose after fire broke out on a 787 owned by Ethiopian Airlines after it had been parked for eight hours at a remote stand at London’s Heathrow airport. The fire caused extensive damage in the rear of the plane and scorched the top of the outer skin of the fuselage just forward of the vertical tail fin.

The Dreamliner’s fuselage is made of carbon-fiber composite, a material that burns at a lower temperature than the aluminum alloy used in traditional aircraft designs. The fire has set up the first test of a major repair of the jet, which industry experts say airlines will be watching closely to determine both the length of time required and the cost to fix the jet’s body.

On Wednesday, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said the plane maker was in discussions with Ethiopian Airlines about how to conduct the repair, and that no decisions had been made yet. McNerney said “it was a little premature” to say how long the repair would take.

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