July 16 - The battery of an emergency locator transmitter is reportedly the latest suspect in an investigation into a fire on a Boeing Dreamliner in London last week. If confirmed it will be the second battery problem experienced by Boeing's Dreamliner but as Ciara Sutton reports airlines and investors are still sticking with the 787.
Under scrutiny... again - the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This time investigators are considering whether a fire on an Ethiopian Airlines plane in London last week was caused by the battery of an emergency locator transmitter. Its maker, Honeywell International, says it's joined the investigation but insists it's had no previous problems with the device. The news brings some relief to Boeing, which had to ground the Dreamliner earlier this year for a different battery problem. But it's still early days and many more questions about the lightweight plane still need to be answered. John Strickland is an aviation analyst. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN STRICKLAND SAYING: "Boeing by its own admission would now say that in the design and development process of the 787 they perhaps tried to do too many new things at once. Because this aircraft uses not only new materials, it uses new systems on the aircraft and the whole process of manufacturing involved a large amount of outsourcing - around about 80% - something Boeing had never done before." Airlines have vowed to stand by the plane. And major travel agents in Japan, where most 787s operate, say flight bookings have been unaffected. The 787 is the first commercial jetliner built mainly from carbon-plastic materials. The weight savings, combined with new engines, are designed to slash fuel costs by 20 percent and operating costs by 10 percent. But the incident is a setback for the company trying to compete with Airbus in the fuel-efficient long-distance market. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN STRICKLAND SAYING: "There was already a confidence building exercise in place following the recent battery groundings, because this aircraft is very important to Boeing. They have 900 orders in a market which is estimated to be in excess of 4000 planes. They do have competition with an aircraft not yet available but in flight test, the A350 from Airbus. Airlines want these two models for the future because they're very fuel economic, whilst offering very long range. So it's really important to get these problems resolves, move on and keep the public confidence." For now Boeing investors aren't showing too much concern - the stock has climbed more than 40 percent this year in response to the plane maker's record pace of production. It's also recovered from last week's losses following the fire. But it knows Airbus will be watching developments closely. Its new A350 uses similar composite panels but they're bolted to a framework, which it says are less risky. Boeing could well be relieved If the latest problem is related to Honeywell's batteries, not the Dreamliner's overall construction.