AAIB bulletin on 787 incident at Heathrow

Today, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) issued a special bulletin on last week’s 787 incident at Heathrow Airport. The bulletin makes two recommendations in regards to the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). Boeing supports those recommendations and we’re working proactively with the regulatory authorities in taking appropriate action. We’re also coordinating with our customers, suppliers, and other commercial airplane manufacturers.

I know some of you are interested in how the ELT works. While ELTs aren’t necessary for normal airplane operations, their primary purpose is to alert and guide rescue crews to the location of an airplane in the event of an accident. They are found in airplanes across the industry as available options selected by airlines.

An ELT is powered via its own battery with no help from the airplane. The ELT interfaces with the airplane via wires connected to the flight deck so that the pilot can activate the transmitter if necessary. Turning on the transmitter doesn’t transfer any power to the unit. There is a co-ax cable from the unit that connects to the antenna, located on top of the fuselage. If an ELT needs to be removed, it is a straightforward process that takes about one hour.

I wanted to emphasize again that the 787 fleet continues to fly as normal. We’ve delivered 68 of the airplanes to 13 customers. As of last week, the fleet had accumulated more than 23,000 revenue flight hours on 128 different routes since returning to service in late April. We’re confident the 787 is a safe airplane and we stand behind it.

Our team will continue working closely with investigators and regulators as the process continues, while making sure our customers have everything they need. We put the safety of passengers and crew at the top of our list and stand ready to take immediate action.

Comments (6)

V V (Montréal, Québec):

Will you give us more detail about the extent of the damage?

Is the aircraft written-off?

If it is not then please give us updates on the repair effort on this aircraft. It would be an extremely interesting example of composite fuselage repair.

Angus Fox (London, UK):

Hi, Does the ELT recharge its own Battery from the 787 power system?

Randy (Boeing):

VV-- We know there is a lot of interest about the repair process. I'll discuss that once we are able to share more.

And as for the question from Angus, the ELT is powered by its own non-rechargeable battery pack. That battery is replaced every 10 years.

John Robson (Toronto, ON Canada):

Your description is incomplete; the ELT must have sensors (g-force, water immersion, electrical from cockpit) that activate the signal without action by the crew.

Jon (Union Grove, North Carolina. USA):

I am surprised that firemen used water on what was considered an electrical fire. Were more suitable chemicals not available?

Norman (Long Beach, CA):

Thankfully this incident has not happened again so far. Though related to the 787 this has not turned into a systemic problem for other 787s.

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