Boeing stops 787 Dreamliner test flights after emergency landing

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Smoke in the cabin aborted a 787 test flight, causing additional delays for Boeing customers anticipating the Dreamliner's commercial debut. Image. CC markjhandel/Flickr

Customers waiting for the long-awaited Boeing 787 Dreamliner are going to have to wait a little longer. A fire broke out in the cabin of a 787 on a test flight Tuesday, forcing an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas. Boeing suspended further test flights of the Dreamliner indefinitely after production had already been delayed by issues surrounding the recent failures of Rolls-Royce jet engines.

Boeing’s smoking 787

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner involved in the incident was on final approach to Laredo Airport in Texas on a test flight from Yuma, Arizona. The pilot reported smoke coming from the back of the main cabin. The 787 landed safely and its crew of 42 people evacuated from the plane down emergency exit chutes. One person was injured. The company didn’t say how long it would take to determine the cause of the problem. The smoke could have come from wiring, lighting or other electronic systems in the aircraft. Boeing ruled out the Dreamliner’s Rolls-Royce engines and said rumors that the 787 lost power were untrue.

Is the Dreamliner worth the wait?

The 787 Dreamliner is regarded as the product Boeing’s future depends on. The aircraft is designed for fuel-efficiency. It’s the first airliner in the world built from composite materials and uses 20 percent less fuel that other planes its size. The 787 was originally scheduled to enter service in May, 2008. However challenges coordinating a massive collaboration with outside suppliers has delayed production. The Dreamliner’s first test flight didn’t occur until December 2009. Airlines around the world have ordered 850 787s, the largest number ever for a plane still being developed.

Boeing’s future on hold

The suspension of 787 test flights is just one of the recent setbacks for Boeing as it struggles to get the Dreamliner off the ground. The Rolls-Royce engine has become a problem after two separate in-flight engine failures last week aboard Airbus A380s. Of the 25 Dreamliners that have made it to the flight line so far, 17 are to be fitted with Rolls-Royce engines. Boeing management has told Wall Street investors that deliveries will take longer than expected and production numbers will be lower than previously forecast. Boeing stock fell more than 3 percent.




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