Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Update: ZA002 had fire in aft electric bay

So what do we know:

ZA002 was flying a test flight to test the NGS system on a 6 plus hour flight that was to terminate at Valley Airport in Harlingen, Tx. As the flight was preparing to land a fire broke out in the aft electronics bay under the passenger cabin. The fire had knocked out the auto throttle and the primary flight displays. The Ram Air Turbine (RAT) was then deployed to provide power to control the aircraft. After the aircraft landed in Laredo, the pilot deployed the emergency slides and the 30-40 people who were on board evacuated with 1 possible slightly injured.

Obviously it is too early to tell what had happened and what equipment was the cause of the fire as well as how long it will take to repair the aircraft and get it back in to the test flight program. Obviously, it is also too early to tell what impact this will have on the flight test program though I do anticipate that it will have an impact. It is worth noting that 787s were still flying after this incident though it is possible that Boeing did not know the severity of the problem until well after the test flights had landed. ZA001 flew from Boeing Field to Rapid City, SD and was to continue with more test flights but did not. ZA004 also flew out of Boeing Field and was to fly to Rapid City but was diverted back to Boeing Field. ZA005 was flying over the Pacific on what was to be a 10 - 11 hour NAMS test flight. It landed about 4 hours ago well short of that goal. Clearly it seems that Boeing may be grounding, temporarily, the 787 test flight fleet until they know what happened and what corrective measures have to be taken. It is known if the fire originated in flight test equipment or on one of the 787 systems. Hamilton Sundstrand is assisting Boeing with the investigation. My feeling it may have originated in one of the 787s systems. However, Guy Norris of Aviation Week is saying that only ZA002 is being taken out of service

A major concern was the fire knocked out power to the flight displays and the auto throttle. Because the aircraft is an all electric architecture instead of the traditional hydraulic/pneumatic systems this incident may raise concerns.

I will update this story as I learn more.

I've linked to the other usual suspects who are reporting on this story:

Flightblogger: Smoke in ZA002's cabin forces evacuation

Guy Norris: 787 grounded after smoke in cabin

Dominic Gates: Electrical fire forces emergency landing of 787 test plane

Aubrey Cohen: Boeing 787 lands with smoke in cabin, crew evacuates

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