Boeing Dreamliner catches fire in Boston

The fire broke out after passengers and crew members had disembarked

Japan Airlines said that a fire broke out in one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, shortly after it landed in Boston, following a flight from Tokyo.

The fire started after a battery in the jet's auxiliary power system overheated.

The airline said that no passengers or crew members were hurt as they had already disembarked.

This is the latest setback for the Dreamliner, after production delays and several technical problems.

"Smoke was initially discovered by maintenance staff in the rear end of the cabin, and confirmed by another maintenance staff who also detected smoke outside the aircraft," Carol Anderson a spokeswoman for Japan Airlines said.

Meanwhile, Doug Alder, a spokesman for Boeing was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that the planemaker was "aware of the situation" and that it was "working with the airline to understand more about it right now".

The US National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter than it had opened an investigation into the fire.

Boeing says it is assisting with that investigation and cannot comment further.

'Very late'

Professor Rigas Doganis, visiting professor at the UK's College of Aeonautics at Cranfield University, said new aircraft types tended to experience teething problems.

But he said a fire was unusual, and that much would depend on whether the Boeing fire was a "one off" or was due to some design weakness.

Only the impending investigation will determine that, Prof Doganis added.

However. he said the incident "will not affect their [787] sales, as airlines do understand that problems occur with new aircraft".

The former chief executive of Olympic Airways added: "The problem with the 787 was that it was long-delayed compared with the planned in-service date; early deliveries were very late and that did more damage to the company's reputation than this incident may do."

Prof Doganis said that Airbus had been also hit by similar delays surrounding the launch of its A380 aircraft.

Growing troubles?

The Dreamliner is one of the most advanced planes ever built. However, a spate of technical issues has hurt its image.

Last year, a United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing due to an electrical problem.

Start Quote

I don't want to be an alarmist, but onboard fires on airplanes are as bad as it gets”

End Quote Carter Leake BB&T Capital Markets

In December, Qatar Airways grounded one of its 787 Dreamliners after several manufacturing faults caused electric problems similar to those that affected the United plane.

Chief executive Akbar Al Baker told the BBC at the time that he was "disappointed because we have an aircraft that has just been delivered to us and for the last five days we can't fly it".

To add to Boeing's woes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in December that it had identified errors in the assembly of fuel line couplings, in the Dreamliner.

It warned that these errors could result in fuel leaking on to hot engine parts and start a fire, cause engine failure, or simply see the plane run out of fuel.

Analysts said the latest incident on the Japan Airlines flight was a major blow to Boeing.

"I don't want to be an alarmist, but onboard fires on airplanes are as bad as it gets," said Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets in Virginia.

"Even though it happened on the ground, rest assured the FAA is asking 'What if it happened in the air?"

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