Another Dreamliner caught fire, this time while parked on a tarmac in London:
An unoccupied Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner caught fire while parked at London’s Heathrow Airport, reprising worries over the Boeing Co. flagship jet three months after it resolved battery problems that had grounded it worldwide.
But before Boeing executives flash back to their recurring nightmares of three months past, it seems that this incident has nothing to do with the those earlier battery problems:
Officials had yet to determine the cause of the fire Friday evening. There was no indication that it was directly related to the Dreamliner’s lithium-ion batteries, which are housed farther toward the front of the plane. Overheating of those batteries triggered burning on two 787s in mid-January that caused regulators to ground the jetliner.
But if this isn’t a battery-related problem, what happened? I have an idea (natch), and it has to do with the airplane’s owner, Ethiopian Airlines:
When I saw headlines like Ethiopian 787 catches fire, my first thought wasn’t “Boeing” or “battery” — instead, I was reminded of my favorite story of aliyah (immigration to Israel). The following could be apocryphal, but as told by the Jerusalem Post:
The Israeli government had officially accepted the Beta Israel as Jews in 1975… Their return seemed inevitable, but it soon became an urgent matter as civil war and famine engulfed Ethiopia.
Israel launched rescue efforts dubbed “Operation Moses” in 1984 and then the larger 1991 emergency airlift known as “Operation Solomon,” which brought nearly 15,000 Ethiopians Jews to Israel in just one weekend. The latter involved an unprecedented and secret 36-hour flight plan carried out by 34 El Al planes whose seats had been removed to accommodate more passengers. Several children were born on the way. Some of the passengers were so unused to the modern surroundings, they even lit cooking fires aboard the planes.
It certainly wasn’t the batteries. But maybe it was just dinnertime on an Ethiopian aircraft.