An Update On Yesterday’s 787 Fire

A number of media outlets are reporting that yesterday’s fire on a parked (and empty) JAL 787 at Boston Logan Airport point to a battery that is used to start-up the APU, or auxiliary power unit.

If this is true, it’s an important distinction.  While a battery fire could happen at anytime, the auxiliary power unit is built to power the plane when it’s parked and the engines are off, not when the plane is flying, making it unlikely to cause a problem in-flight.  Not impossible, but less likely.

I suspect it will be some time before we get definitive answers from NTSB, Boeing or others.  But, the fact that we’re just about 24 hours into this and there’s been no new direction from the FAA on inspecting or grounding 787s is a good (but early) sign that this may not be a major issue.

The 787 remains my favorite plane to fly and my hopes are that this incident doesn’t slow down future deliveries to eager airline customers.

21 Comments

  1. That is good news. When you consider all of the potential risks (and there are many) this makes me feel better about the likelihood of a fire. I assumed it would be something like this that’s more of a fluke

  2. While I share your sentiments about the 787, I wonder what the expected time frames for past FAA actions are, and therefore if no FAA actions in 24 hours is really meaningful or wishful thinking.

    1. PH, there could most certainly be FAA actions past today. I would expect, though, if this were a major or repeat issue that the FAA would act swiftly to ground the small fleet of US based craft since a quick check of a small number of planes would be an easier, prudent choice then, say, grounding every 737.

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

  3. I agree that the FAA reaction points to an isolated incident and no cause for alarm. Obviously, they can still act, and they might. But it does not have the urgency to suggest a common problem

  4. Off topic but hopefully of interest to some folks here: I have a Chase $200 certificate that can be used to open a new Chase Total Checking account. Since I have a Chase account, I can’t use it. It is good through 2/28/13. First refusal goes to Pizza if he wants to use it as a contest prize. If not, I am happy to snail mail it to someone who would like to get $200 for opening a Chase account. Cheers!

    1. Elaine, that’s really nice of you. I’m perfectly happy with you giving it away to a reader. I can start a separate thread and you can pick a winner from the comments if you like, that way people could separately express interest in the certificate. Since it’s got a short expiration, you or I can pick a winner in the next couple days.

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

    2. I was thinking of opening a chase account soon and I would definitely use it. If you have no responses for it I will take it!

  5. Check your facts. The APU is used during flight. If it had not been in use during the USAirways ditch in the Hudson, they would not have had control of the plane since they lost the two engines. The APU provided power to opperate the flight controls allowing a controlled ditching.

    1. Richard, good point. A number of articles reference that the specific battery that caught on fire/blew up (the stories conflict on this point as to whether it blew up as a result of the fire or a fireman put an axe through it) is only used when the plane is parked. That being said, what they probably meant was that the battery is only used to power the APU when the engines are not on, which as you point out, could happen in flight.

  6. The 787 is also my favorite plane, and although this incident seems to be minor compared to what it could have been; I am concern with all the different ‘issues’ this new plane has been having lately. Enough so, that I wonder if issues like this one persist, that the general public will view it as an ‘unsafe’ plane to fly and the demand for it will be compromised that Airlines will decide to cancel their orders all together. Only time will tell, so thanks for the update.

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