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Boeing 787 Dreamliner Catches Fire At London’s Heathrow Airport

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LONDON (CBS/AP) – Boeing says its personnel are trying to find out what caused a fire aboard an empty Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane flown by Ethiopian Airlines at Heathrow Airport Friday.

British police said the fire’s cause has not been determined.

The entire fleet of 787s was grounded in January for problems involving the plane’s lithium-ion batteries.

The incidents included an emergency landing of one plane, and a fire in the battery of a plane at Logan Airport. No one was seriously hurt.

Boeing Co. never did figure out the root cause of the battery incidents. Instead, it redesigned the battery and its charger. The idea was to eliminate all of the possible causes, 787 chief engineer Mike Sinnett said in an online chat on Thursday where he and a Boeing test pilot took questions about the plane.

The changes include more heat insulation between each cell and charging the battery to a lower maximum voltage.

The planes resumed flying in May after Boeing made the redesigns to the battery system that were approved by global aviation regulators. Ethiopian was the first airline to resume using the 787.

M.I.T. Professor John Hansman says he doubts the batteries are to blame for the fire on this Ethiopian jet.

“My suspicion is that it is some other cause to the fire,” he said. “However the fact that it a 787 does cause a lot of alarm, and there is going to an amazing focus and investigation on this.”

While there is no official cause, preliminary reports seem to suggest Professor Hansman may be correct. The Wall Street Journal reported that video from the fire in London showed damage to the top of the jet near the rear of the 787. The Lithium batteries are located at the other end of the jet near the nose.

United Airlines is the only US-based carrier that uses the 787 Dreamliners, which are touted as the plane of the future.

Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said in an email to The Associated Press that the company has personnel at looking into the event at Heathrow.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve contributed to this report. Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeWBZ

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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