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Boeing to make changes to parts of Dreamliner power system

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Redesign comes after a fire onboard caused a power failure during a test flight this month
  • The crew used backup systems to land the aircraft
  • Boeing says the redesign is a result of the outcome of an investigation

(CNN) -- Boeing is making changes to the electrical system of the new 787 Dreamliner after a fire onboard caused a power failure during a test flight earlier this month.

The crew used backup systems to land the aircraft.

"Boeing is developing minor design changes to power distribution panels on the 787 and updates to the systems software that manages and protects power distribution," the company said in a statement Wednesday.

Engineers determined the fault started as a short circuit or an electrical arc in a power distribution panel, most likely caused by foreign debris, Boeing said.

The panel affected is one of five major power distribution panels on the plane.

The company said the redesign is a result of the outcome of an investigation into the electrical fire.

"We have successfully simulated key aspects of the onboard event in our laboratory and are moving forward with developing design fixes," said Scott Fancher, vice president of the 787 program.

The Dreamliner is Boeing's next-generation passenger jet. It is touted as a highly fuel-efficient aircraft made largely with composite materials.

Earlier this month, the fire onboard the Dreamliner caused the plane to lose primary electrical power during a test flight.

"The pilots executed a safe landing and at all times had positive control of the airplane and all of the information necessary to perform that safe landing," Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said.

The company indicated damage to a power control panel in the rear of the aircraft. Boeing employees were conducting a test of a system designed to prevent fires when smoke began filling the back of the cabin of the next-generation 787 Dreamliner, according to the company.

Boeing grounded its entire fleet of test Dreamliners pending results of its analysis of hundreds of different data measurements to determine the cause of the fire.

The Dreamliner departed from Yuma, Arizona. After about six hours of flight, smoke entered the cabin as the plane approached Laredo, Texas.

Despite the setback, Boeing says it intends to deliver the first 787-08 Dreamliner to ANA Airlines next year.

The company has nearly 900 orders for the jet around the world. Aviation experts say Boeing's testing problems are not indicative of the Dreamliner's ultimate safety.

"If I were a prospective passenger in a 787, I wouldn't be concerned," said Snorri Gudmundsson, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "All these bugs will be weeded out."