Batteries 'not cause of plane fire'

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: The Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner remains on the ground at Heathrow Airport following a fire The Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner remains on the ground at Heathrow Airport following a fire

There is no evidence to suggest a fire on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet at Heathrow Airport was caused by its batteries, an investigation has found.

The aircraft caught fire while on a remote parking stand shortly after 4.30pm on Friday.

The Dreamliner has been plagued with problems since its launch. Boeing temporarily withdrew it from service earlier this year for modifications after concerns that batteries on board could cause fires.

But a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found "there is no evidence of a direct causal relationship" between the batteries and the incident at Heathrow.

Nobody was on board the Ethiopian Airlines-operated plane at the time of the fire and there were no injuries.

The AAIB said: "The aircraft is currently located in a hangar at London Heathrow. There has been extensive heat damage in the upper portion of the rear fuselage, a complex part of the aircraft, and the initial investigation is likely to take several days."

Ethiopian Airlines said the aircraft had been parked at Heathrow for more than eight hours before smoke was detected. An airline spokesman said they would continue to operate their fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

There were 44 flights cancelled at Heathrow Airport on Saturday as a result of Friday's disruption when runways were closed to all flights for an hour-and-a-half as emergency crews dealt with the blaze.

Boeing shares fell sharply on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday after news broke of the incident.

Thomson Airways became the first British carrier to operate the Dreamliner earlier this week, and is taking delivery of eight of the planes. The company had hoped to take delivery of the first of its 787s in time to start Dreamliner operations in May. But a series of battery problems led to the grounding of the plane earlier this year while modifications were carried out. Thomson had to scrap plans to use the ultra-green aircraft in May and June.

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