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Originally published July 25, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Page modified July 25, 2013 at 1:39 PM

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FAA directs airlines to inspect device that caused 787 fire

The FAA ordered airlines flying Boeing 787s to remove the devices that caused the July 12 fire at Heathrow or to inspect the devices for battery or wiring damage.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday ordered airlines operating the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to either remove or inspect the jet’s emergency locator transmitter (ELT), the source of the July 12 fire on the Ethiopian Airlines 787 at Heathrow.

“We are issuing this to prevent a fire in the aft crown of the airplane, or to detect and correct discrepancies within the ELT that could cause such a fire,” states the agency’s airworthiness directive, which was expected.

U.S. airlines must within 10 days either remove the ELT device from the airplane or inspect it “for discrepancies associated with the ELT, ELT battery, and associated wiring.”

Most, if not all, the airlines operating the plane have already carried out the necessary ELT inspections.

Citing “the risk to the flying public” the FAA waived the typical notice and comment period prior to requiring implementation of the rule.

The ELT, made by Honeywell, is a transmitter that sends out a location signal in the event of a crash. It is an off-the-shelf device that is found on other airplanes besides the 787.

The FAA said the directive, which it described as an “interim action” in reaction to the July 12 fire, applies only to the 787. It will consider further action later that would apply to other jets.

According to two sources, investigators examining the cause of the fire on the Ethiopian jet found that the internal wires connecting the battery to the ELT had been trapped and pinched when the cover was reattached as the batteries were inserted.

The investigators are studying whether the pinching of the wires may have compromised the insulation causing a short circuit that started the fire.

Worldwide, 71 Dreamliners have now been delivered, according to data from the blog site All Things 787.

The ELT is an optional extra on U.S. airliners, but is required by some other countries, including Japan, where 30 Dreamliners are based.

The FAA directive formally applies to only the six Dreamliners flown by United and registered in the U.S., though other countries typically follow the FAA lead on U.S.-certified airplanes.

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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