An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 parked at London Heathrow Airport caught fire Friday afternoon, forcing the closure of the airport and sending Boeing shares plummeting on the New York Stock Exchange.
The airport suspended all takeoffs and landings while emergency teams sprayed the airplane with fire retardant, but reopened within an hour and a half.
The incident comes less than two months after aviation authorities lifted orders grounding all 50 Boeing 787s in service following two cases of overheated batteries. The grounding lasted some four months and cost Boeing millions of dollars in contract penalties and thousands of man-hours of research and testing of the eventual fix.
Video footage of the damaged airplane appeared to show the most recent fire emanated from near the rear of the airplane, however, far from the area that houses the lithium-ion batteries, which sit under the floor near the nose of the jet.
Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines each issued brief statements acknowledging the event, but neither offered much detail. “Smoke was detected from Ethiopian Airlines B787 aircraft with registration number ET-AOP, which was parked at London Heathrow airport for more than eight hours,” said Ethiopian. “The aircraft was empty when the incident was observed. The cause of the incident is under investigation by all concerned.”