Boeing Grounds 787s After Cabin Smoke Interrupts Test Flight

 - November 10, 2010, 6:19 AM

Boeing grounded its entire fleet of 787 flight-test airplanes after crewmembers reported smoke in the main cabin of the second airplane, ZA002, during a test flight from Yuma, Ariz., to Laredo, Texas, yesterday afternoon. The 42 Boeing crewmembers and support personnel on board used emergency slides to evacuate after the airplane landed safely in Laredo. A Boeing spokesperson told AIN that the company continues to gather data regarding the event. “It’s too early to determine cause and we are continuing to investigate and analyze the data,” she said. “Until we better understand the incident we will not fly the other flight-test airplanes. That may happen within hours or it may take longer; there is no way to anticipate the timing at this point.” The crew first noticed the smoke as the airplane approached Laredo in normal flight conditions, according to the spokesperson. The airplane had reportedly flown for several hours, while crewmembers evaluated the performance of its fuel tank inerting system.  Now close to three years behind schedule, the 787 program can ill afford to encounter any further obstacles to certification. At last report Boeing expected to deliver the first production airplane to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in mid-February. It remains unclear whether or not this latest incident might jeopardize that schedule.