* UK regulators may suggest removing devices temporarily
* Honeywell says has no orders to remove the beacons
* Honeywell locator beacon used in many airplanes
* Initial report by investigators expected in days
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON, July 17 Honeywell International Inc
on Wednesday said it would temporarily remove its
emergency locator beacons from Boeing 787s if asked to do
so under recommendations that sources said British authorities
could release within days as part of an initial report on a fire
on a Dreamliner jet in London last week.
Investigators have been looking at several components,
including a lithium manganese battery in the Honeywell emergency
locator transmitter (ELT), as possible causes for the fire that
caused extensive damage to a parked Ethiopian Airlines
787 in London last Friday. The battery is made by New York-based
Ultralife Corp, a source told Reuters on Monday.
Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which
is leading the investigation, may suggest temporarily removing
the devices from the new Boeing Dreamliners while the probe
continues, according to one source familiar with the probe who
was not authorized to speak publicly.
A second source familiar with the investigation said the
AAIB could issue a report in the next few days that includes
some recommendations, without giving details on the proposals.
Honeywell's emergency beacons are in use on a wide range of
The latest fire on board Boeing's new composite airliner
comes on the heels of a three-month grounding linked to problems
with much larger lithium-ion batteries on the plane.
Sources close to the investigation say it is turning out to
be more complex than initially expected given that the fire
caused severe damage to the upper portion of the jet's rear
fuselage. As in the earlier probe, investigators are finding it
difficult to pinpoint the cause of the fire.
A spokeswoman for the AAIB on Wednesday reiterated that
Honeywell's ELT was one of several components being looked at in
detail as part of the investigation, but said it would be
premature to speculate on the causes of the incident.
AAIB has declined to identify any other components that
might be under scrutiny.
Boeing says its highest priority is the safety of the new
airplanes, and it is working closely with authorities to
"understand exactly what happened - and why," wrote Randy
Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial
Airplanes, in a blog posted on Wednesday.
"While the investigation continues, the 787 fleet is flying
as normal. We're confident the 787 is a safe airplane and we
stand behind its overall integrity," Tinseth wrote.
The AAIB's possible move to remove ELTs was first reported
by The Wall Street Journal, which said that ELTs are not
required for a plane to be certified for passenger flight.
The Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter, said
the AAIB is preparing to ask the U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency to assess
the necessity of the devices on 787s.
Officials at the FAA and U.S. National Transportation Safety
Board (NTSB), which have both sent representatives to London to
assist with the investigation, declined comment, referring
queries to the AAIB.
A spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency said he
had no information on the elements contained in the WSJ report
Honeywell said the report was based on "anonymous
speculation" and said its officials had not been contacted by
British or U.S. authorities involved in the investigation.
However, spokesman Steve Brecken said Honeywell always puts
safety first and "would support an action like this as a
precautionary measure if our team, or the AAIB and NTSB,
determine it's necessary to do so."
Honeywell says it has built over 3,000 emergency beacons
since they were first certified in 2005, and insists that it has
not seen or experienced a single reported issue with them.
The FAA did issue a special airworthiness notice in 2009 in
which it advised airlines to replace the antenna used by an
earlier version of the Honeywell transmitter because it had
failed in tests. Other global regulators published similar
advisories at the time.
Asked about that notice, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said
there was no indication of fire risk linked to the earlier
The ELT, which is positioned in the upper rear part of the
787, sends a signal that leads rescuers to downed aircraft.
ELTs are largely redundant on most large jets since their
routes are closely tracked by radar or air traffic controllers ,
except for long-range polar routes, said one aviation expert.
All planes also come with flight data recorders and voice
data recorders that have sonar "pingers" that are activated in
the event of a crash into water, when the ELT devices would not
work anyway, said the expert.
The FAA also had no comment on the Journal's report that
some FAA officials were arguing to shift jurisdiction for the
fire investigation to the U.S. agency, since the Ethiopian plane
was parked, rather than in flight, and was certified by the FAA.