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Originally published January 7, 2013 at 9:32 AM | Page modified January 7, 2013 at 11:54 AM

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Boeing 787 catches fire on ground in Boston

U.S. safety officials are investigating after a Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines caught fire Monday in Boston following a flight from Tokyo.

Bloomberg News

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WASHINGTON — A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines caught fire Monday in Boston following a flight from Tokyo, and U.S. safety officials are investigating after previous issues involving the model’s electrical system.

No passengers were aboard when firefighters responded to a report of smoke, Richard Walsh, a spokesman for Massport, operator of Boston’s Logan International Airport, said in an interview. The blaze broke out in the plane’s belly, in an area containing avionics systems, Boston’s WBZ-TV reported, citing a Massport news conference at Logan.

Boeing’s latest all-new model has been plagued by incidents since the plane entered commercial service in late 2011. The Dreamliner is the first jet with a fuselage made chiefly of composite materials instead of aluminum and has more electrically operated systems than earlier models.

“We are aware of the event and we are working with our customer,” said Marc Birtel, a spokesman at Boeing’s commercial headquarters in Seattle.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aviation accidents, is sending a team to Boston, Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman, said in an email.

The 787 arrived earlier in the day at the airport with 173 passengers and 11 crew members aboard, WBZ-TV reported, citing the Boston Fire Department and Massport. Passengers interviewed by WBZ said they didn’t smell any smoke approaching Boston.

One Massport firefighter was taken to a hospital after the blaze was extinguished, Walsh said in the interview. Japan Airlines had planned a return flight with the Dreamliner later Monday, he said.

Carol Anderson, a spokeswoman for Japan Airlines in the Los Angeles area, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail and email left for comment about the incident.

Electrical faults forced United Continental Holdings and Qatar Airways to ground 787s last month. While the Qatar failure came on the plane’s delivery flight, the United incident occurred during a scheduled trip to New Jersey’s Newark airport from Houston and forced an emergency landing in New Orleans.

Debris in an electrical panel on a Dreamliner led to an in-flight fire that grounded the entire test fleet for six weeks in late 2010. In July, an engine component on a 787 fractured, spewing shards of metal as the plane prepared for its first flight in South Carolina.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered in December that Dreamliners be inspected after fuel leaks on two planes were traced to manufacturing errors.

Boeing Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney has characterized the incidents on the Dreamliner as “normal introductory squawks” for a new plane.

Alan Levin reported from Washington, D.C.; Susanna Ray reported from Seattle.

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