Reports: Honeywell Part Eyed in 787 Fire Probe

By TransportationFOXBusiness

Investigators are looking into whether an emergency locator transmitter built by Honeywell (NYSE:HON) was one possible cause of Friday’s fire in a Boeing (NYSE:BA) 787 operated by Ethiopian Airlines, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing several anonymous sources.

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The transmitter is located in the upper rear part of the 787, according to the report, a different location than the battery pack that was at the root of the lithium-ion battery meltdowns that grounded the global fleet of Dreamliners for several months earlier this year.

Safety regulators are looking at the device, which Reuters said uses a lithium manganese battery, as one possible cause of the fire.

Honeywell did not immediately respond to FOX Business for a comment, however, a spokesman confirmed to the Journal that the company was “invited to participate in the investigation” and has sent technical experts to London's Heathrow to assist authorities.

“At this time it is premature to speculate on the cause of the fire,” the spokesperson told the newspaper.

The device made by Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell is designed to activate and help find the jet in the event of a crash. It was not immediately clear how much revenue the company derives from the device, but the entire aerospace unit, which is responsible for a wide range of aerospace technologies including cockpit displays, cabin entertainment and electric power systems, posted about $2.95 billion in first-quarter sales, comprising 32% of Honeywell’s total quarterly revenue of $9.3 billion, according to a regulatory filing.

Shares of Honeywell did not immediately react to the Journal report, slipping just 16 cents to $82.22 recently. The company is expected to report second-quarter earnings on Friday.

Boeing, which has faced a series of 787 headaches this year, returned the aircraft to service in late April after a new battery was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Potential problems resurfaced on Friday when a fire broke out on an Ethiopian-operated 787 that had been sitting on the tarmac for eight hours. The blaze was contained and there were no injuries as the aircraft was empty.

One analyst told FOX Business on Friday that the fire did not seem to be related to the earlier battery problems. However, the investigation has remains ongoing and officials haven’t released a formal statement as to the possible cause of the spark.

U.S. authorities like the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA have joined the investigation in the U.K. but would not comment on the Honeywell report, instead pointing to the British regulatory authority, Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), which is overseeing the probe.

The AAIB and Boeing both said they wouldn’t comment because the investigation is ongoing, and Ethiopian Airlines did not immediately respond to FOX Business.

“In order to ensure the integrity of the process and in adherence to international protocols that govern safety investigations, all publicly released information concerning the investigation must come from, or be approved by, the AAIB,” Boeing said in a statement.

The jet maker is participating in the investigation as an advisor and has a team on the ground.

Shares of Boeing were up 3.5% to $105.47 in recent trade, rebounding from heavy losses Friday.