Published July 12, 2013
Boeing (BA) suffered two potential blows on Friday after a 787 Dreamliner with no passengers operated by Ethiopian Airlines caught fire at London’s Heathrow International Airport and a Thomson Airlines flight had to turn around for a technical issue.
The Ethiopian Air blaze has been extinguished and Boeing told FOX Business it is aware of the event. It wasn’t immediately clear whether anyone was injured, but the plane had been parked at Heathrow for more than eight hours and was empty.
“We have Boeing personnel on the ground at Heathrow and are working to fully understand and address this,” a spokesperson for the Chicago-based jet maker told FOX Business.
Both the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have sent officials to the U.K. to investigate the incident.
Meanwhile, a 787 operated by U.K.-based Thomson Airways and bound for Florida had to return to Manchester due to “technical issues,” marking the second Dreamliner incident on Friday. A spokesperson for the carrier said the move was "precautionary."
"Passengers have disembarked and our dedicated team of engineers are now inspecting the aircraft," Thomson told FOX Business. "Our customers will be moved to an alternative aircraft to ensure they get away on their holiday as soon as possible."
Shares of Boeing tumbled as much as 7% in volatile action on the news. They closed down 4.7% to $101.87 on Friday.
J.B. Groh, an analyst with D.A. Davidson, told FOX Business that the Ethiopian Airlines incident didn’t seem to be related to the earlier battery issues. Groh, who has a "neutral" rating on the stock, predicted the market will likely shake off the incident.
Heathrow confirmed to Reuters the Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner suffered an “onboard internal fire.” It wasn’t clear what started the fire or whether it was related to its lithium-ion battery. The airport could not be immediately reached for a comment.
“Smoke was detected from Ethiopian Airlines B787 aircraft,” Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement. “The cause of the incident is under investigation by all concerned.”
The FAA said it is aware of the situation and in contact with Boeing as it assesses the incident. Both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board have sent accredited officials to London to assist in the investigation. Both led probes into Boeing's battery problems earlier this year, however it is not clear whether these incidents were at all battery related.
"At the invitation of the host government authority, the FAA is sending an official to Heathrow Airport in support of the NTSB, the accredited representative of the U.S. government, to assist in the investigation of a fire aboard the Ethiopian Airways Boeing 787," the FAA said.
The Dreamliner, a fuel-efficient jumbo jet with carbon composite materials, has faced a series of setbacks this year, including a FAA-mandated worldwide grounding of the 787 global fleet for several months due to a series of battery meltdowns.
U.S. safety regulators approved of a new contained battery in April with several new features including bigger spaces between the cells that were expected to prevent or contain a fire if the battery were to overheat.
Ethiopian was the first carrier to return the jet to service and was reportedly planning to seek compensation from Boeing for the earlier battery incident, which grounded the two-aisle jet for four months. It currently operates four 787s, with nine more on order, according to its website.
Dow Jones Newswires said the fire was extinguished as of 12:30 p.m. ET.