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Saturday December 20, 2014

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Ethiopian fire damaged 787 returned to service

The Ethiopian Airlines 787 that was fire damaged at London Heathrow in July has been recertified and is back in active service.

A fire had started on the aircraft in the area of the Emergency Locator Beacon (ELT), which is situated in the base of the tail. The investigation into the events leading up to the fire is on going.

A significant are of the fuselage was damaged, and in some cases burnt through by the fire, which occurred while the aircraft was parked in a quite area of the airport. The aircraft was not occupied at the time.

The damage was literally a baptism of fire for Boeing, who had yet to be tested with significant damage to its new structure. The 787 is an entirely new aircraft, and the fuselage is predominantly built using composite materials instead of the more typical aluminium.

Using alternative materials means the processes and procedures to repair such damage were new territory for Boeing.

A source close to the project explained in detail how Boeing went about the repair; "we [Boeing] manufactured an entirely new tail section, from which a repair patch was cut", "this custom patch was then installed to the damaged area and a doubler section installed around the gap". The new patch has in essence been 'plug' fit.

"The greatest challenge was replacing and repairing the damaged stringers..."

Composite materials are more difficult to repair than their metallic counterparts, one of the major down-sides to the new lightweight materials.

The aircraft was rolled out at Heathrow on the 21st December for a test-flight, before returning to service a few days later.

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