Boeing 787 in test flight lands with cabin smoke

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A Boeing 787 test flight made an emergency landing in Texas with smoke in the cabin, the first incident of its kind, putting additional scrutiny on the already delayed program.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing said the two-engine Dreamliner was on final approach to the Laredo airport on a routine mid-afternoon flight from Yuma, Arizona, when the crew reported smoke.

The jet landed safely and all 42 people aboard exited via emergency chutes. Emergency services responded and one person sustained a minor injury during the evacuation, Boeing said in an emailed response, Reuters reports.

The plane — marked ZA002 — is one of six 787 test aircraft. It is unclear what caused the smoke, Boeing said. The FAA said it would look into the matter.
“We are continuing to gather data regarding this event,” Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said.

Smoke can be caused by a variety of factors, including wiring, lighting, other electronics or aircraft systems.

The wide-body aircraft is loaded with technical gear designed to monitor performance during flight tests. The manufacturer also said it had no reason to suspect that the aircraft’s engines manufactured by Rolls-Royce Group Plc had anything to do with the incident.

Rolls is trying to contain safety questions and allay investor concern about the violent failure of a different Trent-series engine on a Qantas Airbus A380 last week. The plane, carrying 459 passengers and crew, landed safely in Singapore, and Qantas grounded its four-engine superjumbo fleet for checks.

Boeing is also testing two Dreamliners equipped with engines made by General Electric Co.

The light-weight, carbon-composite aircraft is nearly three years behind schedule after repeated delays due to engineering snags and problems with the supply chain. Boeing is using suppliers from around the world.

There has been recent speculation throughout the industry that the aircraft could experience another delay.

Boeing has said within the past week that the program is on schedule for the first delivery in the first quarter of 2011. Boeing has orders for 847 Dreamliners, an unprecedented number for a plane still in development.

The company said last month that that the plane handles well and it was “extremely satisfied” with the 787 during testing.



Boeing shares traded off 1.3 percent on Tuesday at US$69.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.