It should have been a routine turnaround for a high-tech aircraft just weeks removed from its maiden flight. But cleaners smelled smoke, and a mechanic for Japan Airlines at Logan Airport soon discovered fire coming from a battery compartment in the underbelly of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, officials said.
Though firefighters contained the small fire and it did not appear to cause significant damage, it knocked out Boston’s only nonstop flight to Asia Monday and sent ticketing agents scrambling to find alternatives for 176 stranded travelers, while Boeing and federal inspectors were en route to determine what went wrong with the $207 million Dreamliner.
The carbon-composite 787 has been closely watched through development and production. The first model went into service in Asia in 2011, while Japan Airlines debuted the 787 in the United States when it launched its daily nonstop between Boston and Tokyo last spring. The airline now has a small fleet of Dreamliners; the particular model that caught fire Monday had been tracked by aircraft junkies who circulated photos of it after a test flight in early December, noted its delivery just before Christmas, and followed its first passenger flight two weeks ago.
Though the Boston to Tokyo route accounted for less than 1 percent of Logan’s record 29 million passengers last year, it is viewed as a boost for the airport and regional economy. Because the Dreamliner is lighter and more fuel efficient than traditional midsized planes, it can travel on long-haul international routes previously plied by aircraft too big and heavy for Logan’s runways, and it holds the promise of more direct routes between Boston and distant locales.
The 186-seat flight to Tokyo has been popular, averaging about 150 passengers per trip. A spokeswoman for the airline said schedule juggling would allow service to and from Boston to resume Tuesday, though the Dreamliner with the fire was out of commission.
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