A mechanic inspecting the Japan Airlines jet discovered smoke in the cockpit while performing a routine postflight inspection and reported it to airport authorities around 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, said Bob Donahue, the fire chief of the Massachusetts Port Authority.
A fire crew responded and determined that a battery used to power the plane’s electrical systems when the engines are not running had exploded, Chief Donahue said. The mechanic was the only person on board the plane when the smoke was discovered, and no one was hurt by the fire, he added.
“Passengers were in no danger, as this event had happened at least 15 minutes after they deplaned,” Chief Donahue said.
The fire is the latest reported mechanical failure in a string of incidents affecting Boeing’s new Dreamliner, which was also plagued by production problems that delayed initial delivery by three and a half years.
A Boeing spokesman, Marc Birtel, said the company was aware of the fire and was working with Japan Airlines on the problem.
Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration are looking into what caused the fire, Chief Donahue said. The National Transportation Safety Board also announced it was opening an investigation.
The 787 relies heavily on electrical power to drive onboard systems that in other jet models are run by air pressure generated by the engines. It also experienced electrical problems during testing that prompted a redesign.
The Dreamliner has experienced a string of problems with its electrical systems in recent weeks. On Dec. 4, a United Airlines flight from Houston to Newark made an emergency landing after it appeared that one of its power generators had failed.
On Dec. 13, Qatar Airways said it had grounded one of its three 787 jets because of the same problem United experienced. On Dec. 17, United said that a second 787 in its fleet had developed electrical problems.