* Boeing shares close 1.4 percent lower
* Analyst see questions about repair of damaged plane
* Honeywell beacon and battery eyed in probe
By Rhys Jones and Andrea Shalal-Esa
LONDON/WASHINGTON British investigators said on
Tuesday said they were looking at a number of components,
including a transmitter made by U.S. firm Honeywell, as
they searched for the source of a fire on a Boeing 787
Dreamliner in London last week.
Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch is leading the
investigation into a blaze that broke out on a parked Ethiopian
Airlines jet last Friday.
The fire caused extensive damage to the upper portion of the
jet's rear fuselage, which has raised questions about whether
the composite plane can be repaired, analysts say.
The UK agency has sought to allay fears about a return of
problems with overheating batteries that grounded the Dreamliner
for months earlier this year but investors are anxious for more
details about the cause of Friday's fire.
"People are taking stock of the relative uncertainty
surrounding the 787," said aviation consultant Richard Aboulafia
with the Virginia-based Teal Group. "There's a lot of complex
electrical systems on this plane, and there's also the
realization that we don't know what the repair of this airplane
will look like or what the implications are."
Industry experts said repairing the damaged airplane could
take months or a year. If Boeing opts to replace the entire tail
section, that also could mean a long delay because there is no
slack in the production line, they said.
The focus on the emergency beacon has raised alarms for some
analysts, who said more technology problems with the new,
high-tech airliner would be troubling.
"It's good to see the AAIB are getting closer to finding out
what happened but what we really need to know now is if this is
a one off or a problem for the whole Dreamliner fleet - that is
the crucial point for Boeing and airlines," said Howard
Wheeldon, an aerospace analyst at Wheeldon Strategic Advisory.
"We can confirm that Honeywell have been invited to join the
investigation," a spokesman for the AAIB said on Tuesday.
"The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) is one (of) several
components being looked at in detail as part of the
investigation and it would be premature to speculate on the
causes of the incident at this stage."
The ELT, which is positioned in the upper rear part of the
new airline, sends a signal that leads rescuers to downed
aircraft. It is powered by a non-rechargeable lithium-manganese
The AAIB spokesman declined to identify any other
components that might be under scrutiny as possible causes of
Boeing shares closed down 1.4 percent to $104.23 on
Tuesday, still comfortably above the $75 range seen during the
three-month grounding of 787s related to overheating problems
with its power backup batteries.
A source familiar with the probe told Reuters on Monday
that investigators were looking specifically at the location
transmitter's lithium manganese battery made by Ultralife Corp
, a Newark, New York-based company.
Ultralife's shares closed 3 cents lower at $3.97 on the
Nasdaq stock exchange on Tuesday. Ultralife declined to comment.
U.S. aviation officials cautioned against jumping to any
conclusions that the emergency beacon or its battery caused the
fire, saying many components were damaged in the blaze, which
made it difficult to determine where the fire broke out.
Honeywell says it has built and sold over 3,000 of the
emergency beacons since they were first certified in 2005 and
there have been no safety incidents. Company officials say they
have not seen or experienced a single reported issue with the
emergency beacons, in use on a wide range of airplanes.
Honeywell shares closed down 27 cents, or 0.3 percent lower,
at $82.03 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.