787 Fire Sparks "Minor" Redesign

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Boeing says it's redesigning the electrical panels and attendant power distribution software on the 787 after a program-halting fire on one of its test planes in Laredo, Texas, a few weeks ago. It's also partly confirming reports last week that something that wasn't supposed to be in an electrical box caused the fire. Those reports said it was a tool left by a worker. Boeing says it doesn't think so. "It was small, it wasn't as big as a tool," Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said. "A tool would leave evidence." The company characterized the work as minor.

The cause of the fire is, however, less important to Boeing engineers than its effect. Boeing has long maintained that the highly computerized systems have greater redundancy and give the pilots more options in an emergency. In the Laredo incident, the short circuit resulted in a cascade of failures that affected cockpit displays, the autothrottle and electronic flight controls. The Wall Street reported an FAA certification pilot was at the controls at the time of the fire.