Boeing Co. said federal regulators are investigating after one of its new 787 jets had an engine issue that sparked a fire in South Carolina, but the company remains confident in the aircraft's safety.
The jet is one of Boeing's most critical products. The company delivered the first 787, known as the Dreamliner, last year following several years of design and production delays. Airlines put in record orders for the jet, as its lightweight, high-tech design was expected to offer travelers more comfort, provide airlines significant fuel savings and open up new routes.
Boeing said Sunday that a 787 had an engine issue Saturday while undergoing preflight runway testing in North Charleston, South Carolina. The Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston reported that debris from the aircraft fell on the runway at Charleston International Airport and sparked a fire in the nearby grass, which closed the airport for more than an hour.
Company spokesman Marc Birtel said the company could not disclose the nature of the engine issue due to rules surrounding the investigation.
"While the investigation is in its early stages, we are unaware of any operational issue that would present concerns about the continued safe operation of in-service 787s powered by GE engines," Boeing said in a statement. "However, should the investigation determine a need to act, Boeing has the processes in place to take action and will do so appropriately."
National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Terry Williams said there was no information available at this time but expects investigators are reviewing the case and may release some details by Monday.
The pressure is on for companies to deliver a successful fuel-efficient plane. Boeing competitor Airbus on Friday announced another delay for its A350 aircraft, which is made with a significant amount of carbon composites and is considered a potential rival to the Dreamliner.
Boeing is headquartered in Chicago but has a campus in South Carolina where it produces some of the 787 jetliners.
Boeing spokesperson Candy L. Eslinger released this statement:
A 787 experienced an engine issue July 28 while undergoing preflight
runway testing in North Charleston. As the NTSB investigates, Boeing and
GE are working closely with the agency and are committed to resolving
the issue appropriately.
While the investigation is in its early stages, we are unaware of any
operational issue that would present concerns about the continued safe
operation of in-service 787s powered by GE engines. However, should the
investigation determine a need to act, Boeing has the processes in place
to take action and will do so appropriately.
The 787 Dreamliner is also assembled in Everett.