* Fire damaged Boeing aircraft at London airport on Friday
* Investigators say no evidence of link to batteries
* Second Dreamliner suffers technical problems
* Airline "100 percent sure of its safety"
By Peter Griffiths and Rhys Jones
LONDON, July 14 Airlines expressed confidence in
the safety of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner on Sunday as
investigators searched for the cause of a fire on one of the
advanced jets and billions were wiped off the company's market
British officials said initial checks into what they called
a serious incident appeared to rule out any link to the
battery-related problems that grounded the Dreamliner fleet for
three months earlier this year.
The fire on the Ethiopian Airlines plane at Heathrow Airport
in London and a separate technical problem on a second 787 owned
by Britain's Thomson Airways on Friday raised new
questions about an aircraft seen as crucial to Boeing's future.
The incidents were a setback for a company trying to rebuild
confidence in its flagship jet and compete with Airbus
in the booming market for more fuel-efficient long-distance
Britain's Tui Travel, which owns six European
airlines including Thomson Airways, said its plane turned back
during a flight from England to Florida and had a small number
of unspecified components replaced. The parts were unrelated to
the battery, it said.
"We want to reassure our customers that we have every
confidence in this aircraft and would never operate it if we
weren't 100 percent sure of its safety," a TUI Travel
No one was injured in the fire on the empty Ethiopian
Airlines plane, which was parked at Heathrow. However, it closed
Britain's busiest airport for 90 minutes.
Britain's Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB), part of
the Department for Transport, said the damaged Ethiopian
Airlines plane was being examined in a hangar at Heathrow.
Boeing shares closed down 4.7 percent at $101.87 on Friday
after the Heathrow fire, knocking $3.8 billion off the company's
In the early stages of the investigation, airlines said they
would continue to fly their Dreamliners, while others confirmed
they would stick to their plans to buy the aircraft.
Virgin Atlantic said it remained committed to taking
delivery of 16 of the planes from the autumn of 2014. Delta Air
Lines is buying a 49 percent stake in the airline.
"We are confident that Boeing and the relevant authorities
are working hard to ensure that the appropriate action is being
taken," Virgin said in a statement.
Polish flag carrier LOT, the first European airline
to take delivery of the 787 last year, said it was in constant
contact with Boeing.
Boeing will be keen to reassure airlines, travellers and
investors over the cause of the fire as quickly as possible but
under aviation rules it will be up to investigators to decide
how much information to release and when.
Boeing said it had people on the ground working to
understand the causes of the fire. The U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration said it was in contact with Boeing.
Britain's AAIB said on Saturday there was extensive heat
damage in the upper portion of the rear fuselage. The damage was
far from the batteries and "there is no direct evidence of a
direct causal relationship", it said.