October 16, 2013 / 3:03 AM / 6 years ago

Fuselage panel falls from Boeing 787 Dreamliner in flight

An Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner prepares for a flying display, during the 50th Paris Air Show, at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N) said a body panel fell off of a 787 Dreamliner operated by Air India while the plane was in flight on Saturday, a new problem for the high-tech jet that has suffered a string of mishaps since its introduction two years ago.

Boeing said the loss of the fuselage panel posed no safety risk to passengers. It was not immediately known where the panel landed.

The jet was carrying 148 people, including crew, on a flight from Delhi to Bangalore, The Times of India newspaper reported. The pilots did not realize the eight-by-four-foot panel was missing until after the flight landed, the newspaper said, adding that India’s aviation authorities are investigating.

Boeing said the missing panel fell from the underside of the plane on the right side. A photo on The Times of India website showed a large opening with components and aircraft structure visible inside.

“It was the mid-underwing-to-body fairing located on the belly of the airplane on the right side,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said. The part “provides a more aerodynamic surface in flight.”

He said Boeing is working to understand what caused the panel to fall and declined to say whether the plane was made at Boeing’s South Carolina factory. A number of Air India jets have come from that assembly line.

The Times of India said the panel was replaced with one taken from a just-delivered 787 Dreamliner that was not yet ready for service. That plane is now awaiting a spare part, the paper said.

Problems that have afflicted the 787 include battery overheating that prompted regulators to ground the entire fleet in January. Flights resumed in April. Despite the problems, Boeing’s stock has stayed near record levels. It closed Tuesday at $118.18, down $1.28.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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