The fire was in the aft electrical equipment bay, where electrical problems and an earlier in-flight Dreamliner fire have been reported. In 2010, an electrical fire in the same bay forced a Boeing test plane to make an emergency landing in Texas. More recently, a power panel in the bay prompted an emergency landing in New Orleans by a United Continental Holdings Inc. 787.
"This incident goes to the heart of the innovative side of the 787," said Hans Weber, president of TECOP International Inc., an aviation consulting group that specializes in aircraft certification. Mr. Weber remained concerned that spate of electrical issues aboard the 787 could make it more difficult for the plane to fly extended missions far from diversion airports.
The 787 was designed for long over-water routes between midsize cities that couldn't profitably accommodate a larger jet with more seats. It has had to meet a stringent set of regulations to ensure the jet can still fly safely in the event one of its two engines fail.
Those regulations include strict guidelines for the lithium ion batteries on the 787 because of concerns about the batteries' potential flammability.
During the 787's development, Boeing repeatedly affirmed that it complied with the expanded safety standards for the batteries, which are part of the aircraft's emergency power system.
[Edited 2013-01-08 05:51:44]