Dreamliner delivery at risk following onboard fire over Texas

Failure of a power panel in the aft electronics bay led to a fire that burned the insulation around the panel. Boeing has grounded all Dreamliner test aircraft as it investigates cause and effect.

Delivery of The Boeing Co.'s (Seattle, Wash., USA) 787 Dreamliner is facing another possible delay following an onboard fire during a test flight on Nov. 9 over Texas. Boeing has grounded all Dreamliner test aircraft following the incident as the company investigates cause of the fire.

Boeing reports that during approach to Laredo, Texas, airplane ZA002 lost primary electrical power as a result of an onboard electrical fire. Backup systems, including the deployment of the Ram Air Turbine (RAT), functioned as expected and allowed the crew to complete a safe landing. The pilots executed a safe landing and at all times had positive control of the airplane and all of the information necessary to perform that safe landing.

Boeing has determined that a failure in the P100 panel in the aft electronics bay led to a fire involving an insulation blanket. The insulation self-extinguished once the fault in the P100 panel cleared. The fire lasted about 30 seconds. The P100 panel on ZA002 has been removed and a replacement unit is being shipped to Laredo. The insulation material near the unit also has been removed.

Damage to the ZA002 P100 panel is significant. Initial inspections, however, do not show extensive damage to the surrounding structure or other systems. The P100 panel is one of several power panels in the aft electronics bay. It 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. 

Molten metal has been observed near the P100 panel, which is not unexpected in the presence of high heat. The presence of this material does not reveal anything meaningful to the investigation. Inspection of the surrounding area will take several days and is ongoing. Boeing says it is too early to determine if there is significant damage to any structure or adjacent systems.