The Air Ethiopian Boeing 787 Dreamliner "Queen of Sheba" sits on the runway near Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport in London on July 12.
(Photo: Sang Tan, AP)
(USATODAY.com) - The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing that airlines inspect emergency transmitters in all Boeing 787 Dreamliners after British investigators traced a fire to a transmitter in a parked plane.
The FAA announced the proposal Saturday and is developing the inspection instructions with Boeing for the emergency locator transmitters.
The proposal, which the FAA expects to finalize within days, will ask airlines to inspect the transmitters for signs of wire damage or pinching. The inspections will also check each transmitter's battery for unusual heating or moisture.
Although the FAA doesn't require the transmitters aboard large commercial planes, the order for inspections will be mandatory. The FAA said it is relaying its concerns to airlines and regulators worldwide this weekend.
The proposal came after British investigators traced a July 12 fire aboard an Ethiopian Airlines' 787 parked at Heathrow International Airport to an emergency transmitter powered by lithium manganese dioxide batteries.
Although the Air Accidents Investigation Branch found damage to the battery's cells, it wasn't clear whether the battery caused the problem or a short-circuit ignited the battery. Investigators said there are 6,000 emergency locators with the batteries on a wide range of aircraft, and this is the first with a significant problem such as the fire.
The transmitter's manufacturer, Honeywell International, supported the British recommendations "as a safety-first-focused company" and said it would assist Boeing and airlines as needed.
Boeing also supported the British recommendations as "reasonable precautionary measures," in a statement that said safety remains the company's highest priority.
"We are confident the 787 is safe, and we stand behind its overall integrity," Boeing said in the statement.
U.S. investigators had trouble determining the cause of a January battery fire in a Dreamliner parked in Boston. In that case, the lithium-ion battery was an auxiliary unit that helped power the plane.
The FAA and other regulators worldwide grounded the planes from January to April. Without finding the precise cause of the Boston fire, Boeing put more insulation between cells in the battery, surrounded the battery with a metal box to prevent the spread of a potential fire and installed a titanium tube to carry flammable electrolytes off the plane if there was a fire.