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FAA Orders Inspections of Honeywell ELT’s After Fire Onboard An Ethiopian Airlines 787
By Bill Goldston

September 18, 2013 - As a result of a fire onboard an Ethiopian Airlines 787 (ET-AOP) back in July in which it is believed that the fire was caused by lithium-manganese dioxide batteries which power the aircrafts emergency locator transmitter (ELT) the FAA has issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD). 

The AD is identical to the August 26 Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) directive which requires airlines to inspect Honeywell emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) (RESCU406AFN ELT) by January 14, 2014 to prevent an electrical short and possible ignition source. The FAA AD has the same deadline for the U.S. fleet and will impact approximately 4,000 airplanes at a total cost of approximately $325,720. 

On July 12, 2013, a fire had started in the rear of an Ethiopian Airlines 787 parked at Heathrow Airport, at the time there were no passengers onboard. The fire caused extensive heat damage to the aircraft. 


The FAA and NTSB sent representatives to assist in the investigation. There initial investigation found no direct link with the aircraft's main batteries. Further investigations indicated that the fire was due to lithium-manganese dioxide batteries powering an emergency locator transmitter (ELT). 

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) issued a special bulletin on July 18, 2013 requesting the US FAA ensure that the locator is removed or disconnected in Boeing 787s, and to review the safety of lithium battery-powered ELT systems in other aircraft types. The investigation of the July 12, 2013 Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 fire is under the control of the United Kingdom Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB).


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