Images of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 which was damaged by fire at London’s Heathrow airport on July 12, show that the blaze was probably not connected with the lithium-ion battery problems which grounded the aircraft earlier this year.
That’s the good news for Boeing and other 787 operators. The bad news for Ethiopian in this case is that the aircraft involved, ET-AOP (L/N44), which was the first 787 to restart operations in mid-April following the fleet-wide grounding, could be down for a very long time. Although it is too early to tell from these images if the airframe could be considered a write-off, the damage looks to represent – at the very least – a huge AOG challenge.
The fire, understood to have broken out shortly before 5pm, occurred while the aircraft was parked on a remote stand in the western part of the airport prior to the scheduled 9 pm departure of the airline’s ET701 service to Addis Ababa. Images of the incident indicate the blaze occurred in the aft fuselage close to the rear galley and crew rest area by doors L3 and R3. Evidence of charring is visible in the crown section at the base of the fin close to the structural junction of the aft fuselage Section 47 with the mid-fuselage section.
The fire could not have happened any closer to Heathrow's airport fire station
It is not yet known where the fire originated, or the extent of the structural damage inside the fuselage. There were no passengers on board and Heathrow officials have said there are no reported injuries.