Air NZ up with play on latest Dreamliner fire

Air New Zealand says Boeing has kept it updated on the incident in which an Ethiopian Airways Boeing 787 was damaged by fire while parked at Heathrow.

British investigators are looking at the emergency locator transmitter situated near the back of the 8-series Dreamliner where the July 12 fire occurred in the upper portion of the rear fuselage, a complex part of the aircraft.

The European Aviation Safety Agency said yesterday there was no immediate threat of the plane being grounded.

An Air NZ spokesman said the airline still expected to get its first new model 9-series plane next year on schedule, after a delivery programme that has been revised after years of delays.

He said Boeing had kept Air New Zealand up to date with the investigation into the incident in London.

While the 9-series is longer with heavier landing gear and more fuel capacity, much of the technology and equipment used in the earlier model of the plane will be used in the version for which Air New Zealand is the launch customer.

Planes that will be part of its 10-aircraft fleet are now being made at the Boeing plants in Seattle and Charleston with the first due to roll off the production line soon.

While the cause of the Ethiopian Airways incident is unlikely to be related to battery fires that resulted in the fleet being grounded around the world earlier this year, analysts say any new source of trouble is bad for Boeing.

"People are taking stock of the relative uncertainty surrounding the 787," aviation consultant Richard Aboulafia, of the Virginia-based Teal Group, told Reuters.

"There's a lot of complex electrical systems on this plane, and there's also the realisation that we don't know what the repair of this airplane will look like or what the implications are."

Boeing makes the rear fuselage out of carbon-fibre barrel-shaped sections in Charleston, South Carolina, and repairing the damaged plane could take months if Boeing opts to replace an entire section.

Most other planes are made of aluminium panels that can more easily be replaced.

- NZ Herald

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