Etihad Airways Boeing 777-300ER. Photo: M Radzi Desa.

LONDON – Boeing has issued a notice to all 777 customers after the Australian Transportation Safety Board (ATSB) concluded its report on an incident involving an Etihad 777-300(ER) (A6-ETR) back in October 2017.

The flight in question took place on October 14, 2017, between Abu Dhabi and Sydney. At 04:07LT, while the aircraft was in-flight at cruising altitude, the crew noticed burning smells coming from an air vent.

Photo: John Taggart

According to the report, the Pilots rapidly reacted to a FIRE CARGO FWD warning light in the flight deck’s annunciator panel.

Once the pilots determined the problem, the non-normal checklists were implemented and the aircraft began it’s diversion to Adelaide Airport.

By 04:55LT, the aircraft landed uneventfully, with emergency services not noticing any external fires coming out from the aircraft.

Location of the damage in the FWD Cargo hold. Photo: ATSB.

After the plane had landed, the forward cargo compartment was emptied and maintenance engineers were sent in to take a look.

Within minutes, they found a small quantity of soot in the ceiling of the cargo area.

The areas of where the soot was identified were then removed, finding heat damage and a chafed 115-volt electrical wire in the wiring compartment.

Once the damage was found, they implemented a temporary fix onto the cargo bin before departed on a ferry flight back to Abu Dhabi, where the more permanent repairs took place.

A6-ETR is still operational to this date.

The heat damage and soot in photographical form. Photo: ATSB.

When consulted with Boeing, the manufacturer determined that the wiring loom, labeled as W5279, was incorrectly fitted at the time when the aircraft was built in 2013.

The incorrection in fitting meant that the screws chafed the wires and shorted the circuits.

This is not an unknown issue to Boeing. Reportedly, there have been other four incidents in the cargo bay of other 777s. This was, however, the first time that the warning lights in the flight deck had been displayed.

Thankfully, all 349 passengers and 16 members were deplaned with no harm.

Had the warning messages not shown up, this incident could have turned into a catastrophe.

“Boeing has received reports of five separate in-service events where a ceiling liner screw in the forward cargo compartment was found in contact with a wire bundle, resulting in a short to ground that damaged cargo ceiling standoffs, the wire bundle, and the floor beam in some cases,” said the manufacturer in a statement.

A6-ETR seen here on approach into Munich back in March 2018. Photo: Thomas Vatany.

“Boeing Engineering performed an investigation of all cargo ceiling wire bundle installation engineering drawings. Boeing will add additional spacing as a precaution when wire bundles are in close proximity to ceiling liner screws.”

A6-ETR is a predominantly young aircraft, delivered to Etihad in November 2013. At the time of the incident, the aircraft had flown 2,284 cycles.