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Boeing urges more checks of ELTs after fire

Bloomberg

Boeing Co. has asked airlines to inspect emergency locator transmitter beacons on a range of planes after ANA Holdings Inc. and United Airlines found faults in the devices on 787s linked to a fire in a parked Dreamliner.

The aircraft maker asked operators to inspect aircraft with fixed ELTs from Honeywell International Inc., Randy Tinseth, a Boeing marketing vice president, said on a blog Sunday. Planes to be checked include the Boeing 717, the next-generation 737, the 747-400, 767 and 777.

ANA, the biggest operator of 787s, already started checks on other planes with Honeywell ELTs last week after completing inspections on its fleet of Dreamliners, said Maho Ito, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman at the carrier. Boeing’s recommendation spreads the investigation beyond the 787, which was prevented from flying for three months earlier this year following two cases of lithium-ion batteries melting, in the first global grounding of a model since 1979.

The inspections are to “gather data to support potential rule-making by regulators,” Tinseth wrote. The ELTs are separate from flight and voice data recorders, known as black boxes, which have their own locator transmitters.

Investigators are trying to determine whether two wires smashed under a cover on an ELT caused a short-circuit that triggered the blaze on an Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise 787 at London’s Heathrow airport, according to a source.

Steve Brecken, a spokesman for Honeywell, didn’t immediately return telephone and email messages left seeking comment.

Tokyo-based ANA has completed checks on eight of 38 planes it is inspecting, Ito said. Japan Airlines Co., the second-largest operator of Dreamliners, doesn’t have Honeywell ELTs on models other than the 787, Kazunori Kidosaki, a spokesman at the carrier, said Monday.

Boeing is taking the action after the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch recommended airplanes with fixed Honeywell ELTs be inspected, Tinseth said. There have been about 6,000 of the Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell ELTs installed on aircraft, according to the AAIB.

ANA last week found a dented wire in a fixed ELT and another in a portable ELT and removed all the devices from eight 787s used on domestic routes. United also found a pinched wire in an ELT, which it replaced and returned to the manufacturer for evaluation, Christen David, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based airline, said last week.

The fire in the Ethiopian Airlines’ ELT, which runs off a lithium battery, renewed concern that the 787 was at risk from electrical faults after two meltdowns in a different type of lithium-ion battery in January. Those incidents, involving batteries that are part of the plane’s power system, spurred the three-month grounding of the global Dreamliner fleet to fix the flaw.

Boeing 787 operators must check the jets’ ELTs made by Honeywell, the European Aviation Safety Agency said last week in an emailed statement.