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FAA To Work With Boeing To Develop Plan For Inspecting ELTs On 787 Aircraft
By Mike Mitchell

July 21, 2013 - After reviewing the initial findings of the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report and recommendations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)is working with Boeing to develop instructions to operators for inspection of the Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) on the Boeing 787 aircraft.

Back on July 12, 2013, an air traffic controller at London Heathrow airport noticed from the tower smoke coming from an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner, registration number ET-AOP  parked. There were no passengers onboard although the aircraft was to depart later in the day.

AAIB has begun its investigation, based on the fire location and the fires hottest point, the agency believes the ELT may have caused the fire which was located in the rear of the aircraft in a ceiling panel. The manufacture of the ELT is Honeywell International (RESCU406AFN ELT). The company has an excellent safety record with the ELT.


AAIB made to recommendations in their report, It recommends that the FAA initiate action for making inert the Honeywell International RESCU406AFN fixed Emergency Locator Transmitter system in Boeing 787 aircraft until appropriate airworthiness actions can be completed and that the FAA, in association with other regulatory authorities conduct a safety review of installations of Lithium-powered Emergency Locator Transmitter systems in other aircraft types and where appropriate, initiate airworthiness action.

These inspections will ask operators to inspect for proper wire routing and any signs of wire damage or pinching, as well as inspect the battery compartment for unusual signs of heating or moisture. The Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner ELT model installed has a set of chemical batteries using a Lithium-Manganese Dioxide (LiMin02) composition which allow the ELT to operate in an emergency situation entirely independent of the aircraft's electrical power system. Examination of the batteries has shown some indications of disruption to the battery cells.



The FAA is preparing to issue an Airworthiness Directive in the coming days that would make these inspections mandatory. Federal Aviation Regulations do not require large commercial aircraft in scheduled service to be equipped with these devices. Over the weekend, the FAA has communicated its intentions to aviation safety regulators in other countries. The FAA said “As an active participant in the AAIB's investigation, we continue to work closely with the AAIB, along with Boeing and Honeywell, as the investigation continues into the cause of the recent fire aboard a 787 jetliner while parked on the ground in London”.

Boeing said “As a party to the investigation, Boeing supports the two recommendations from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which we think are reasonable precautionary measures to take as the investigation proceeds. We are working proactively to support the regulatory authorities in taking appropriate action in response to these recommendations, in coordination with our customers, suppliers, and other commercial airplane manufacturers”.

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