MIAMI — When a fire sparked by a faulty Honeywell emergency locator transmitter ripped through the rear section of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 at Heathrow earlier this summer, many questions were raised. As the first airliner made mostly of composite materials, a fix to a large hole in the skin of the aircraft had never been done before. Would Boeing and Ethiopian be forced to write off the aircraft? Would they be able to do any required repair work at Heathrow? Would it ever fly again?
Boeing did indeed begin work on the aircraft at Heathrow, and after keeping a close eye on the repairs, we gained a lot of answers. We saw Boeing set up a massive work station around the damaged aircraft, and eventually remove the tail entirely. Today, however, we saw something new. The damaged aircraft, ET-AOP, has taken to the skies over London once again, a little over five months since the incident.
The repaired 787 took off from London’s Heathrow airport Saturday morning, proving a repair to the composite skin of the 787 – at least a short-term repair – is indeed possible. The aircraft circled over the North Sea for several hours at various altitudes and speeds before returning to Heathrow at about 2:36pm local time.
While we now know the aircraft is capable of flight, there are still additional questions which need to be answered. Is the repair permanent or temporary? When will the aircraft be able to return to service? The next chapter of the fire damaged 787 begins.