New Delhi: A fire broke out on an Air India Boeing 787 aircraft on its way from Delhi to Kolkata, in the rear galley area, causing a scare before it was doused by the crew using fire extinguishers.
“There was a rear galley fire which was controlled onboard Delhi-Kolkata flight AI-020 on Wednesday operated by Boeing 787,” said a person with knowledge of the incident, who declined to be identified. “It later turned out that it was (an) internal oven fire only and it did not affect the surrounding areas.”
While it’s not clear what caused the blaze, it comes after a series of mishaps that have dogged Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner planes, which boast cutting-edge, fuel-saving technology largely through the use of composite materials that help save on weight.
Fires associated with the plane’s batteries led to the grounding of all 787s around the world earlier this year for about five months. Flights only resumed in May.
After that came an incident on 12 July in which a fire broke out on a Dreamliner on the ground at London’s Heathrow airport. The fire in the Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise plane occurred in the rear.
An oven fire in a brand new aircraft like Air India’s VT-ANL—its registration number—is unheard of, said the official cited above, adding that the matter would be taken up with the manufacturer.
The aircraft was not grounded and continued to operate after a check by local engineers in Kolkata, the official said. The oven was removed from the aircraft and the electrical switches connected to the rear galley oven were turned off.
Air India said it has reported the incident to Boeing.
“It’s a minor incident and it has been reported to Boeing. The investigations are on,” an Air India spokesman said.
A DGCA spokesperson did not offer any immediate comment, while an email sent to Boeing did not elicit a reply until the time of going to press.
The Heathrow airport fire, which made a hole in the stationary Ethiopian Airlines aircraft, was traced to a likely problem with the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), used to find a plane in case it crashes in a remote area. US regulator Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing asked that all ELTs be disabled until the cause of the fire was ascertained and an investigation completed.
Air India is in the process of complying with this.
The jet has been dogged by controversies since commercial flights started in October 2011, with the biggest blow being the global grounding in January after batteries in some of the aircraft caught fire. Boeing said in April that it had identified and rectified the problem.
It was allowed to resume flights in May after a redesign added more protection around individual cells to contain any overheating, a steel case to prevent fire and a tube that would vent any fumes outside the fuselage.
Air India has 125 aircraft that fly to at least 90 international and domestic destinations.
The airline had ordered 27 Dreamliners, some of which have already joined its fleet. The Dreamliners are to be deployed mostly on international routes.
About 1,000 Dreamliners have been ordered by various airlines.
Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation analyst and member of a government-appointed air safety council, said Air India needs to make a through investigation of the incident.
“If it is due to overheating of materials that are not heat-resistant or food stuff, this would point to a deficiency in cabin crew training. If it is due to an electrical overload, that would require a wider study, in view of the recent events worldwide. It is better to be prudent than be adventurous to prove a point,” he said.
“If it is an internal oven fire and surrounding areas are clear, it is not something to worry too much about but Air India should have higher vigilance on this issue,” he said.