An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 made an emergency landing on Friday after experiencing what is being reported as a significant electrical problem over the North Atlantic. Flight 87, operating from London Heathrow (LHR) to Chicago O’Hare (KORD), successfully diverted to Keflavik, Iceland (KEF).
According to data from FlightAware, three hours and 37 minutes into the flight, the aircraft descended from 31,000 to 10,000 feet in 14 minutes before making the emergency landing at Keflavik 30 minutes later. A passenger aboard the aircraft reported to AIN that seat electronics in the passenger cabin (including Wi-Fi) failed, the turn back to Iceland was steep, and the landing gear “went down very early.” He also reported that the captain told passengers that backup navigation and the cockpit public address system had failed. On landing, several fire trucks and ambulances met the aircraft before it made a normal taxi to the terminal. A pair of technicians from United Airlines then boarded the airplane before passengers were informed that the flight would not be continuing on the incident aircraft.
AIN contacted American, Boeing, and the FAA for additional information about the incident. Boeing had no official response. American did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A spokesman for the FAA said the agency was looking into the matter.
Since its entry into service, the 787 has suffered from various problems related to its lithium-ion batteries and electrical and computer systems. In 2020, the FAA issued an airworthiness directive that required repetitive recycling of the airplane's electrical power to prevent the failure of stale data monitoring in the common core system that can “lead to undetected or unannunciated loss of common data network (CDN) message age validation, combined with a CDN switch failure.”
Boeing has touted the mostly composite-construction 787 as a “more electric” airplane. Its electrical system differs significantly from those in previous-generation aircraft in that it has two generators, instead of one, on each engine and the auxiliary power unit; power feeders run from generators to the aft electrical equipment bay as opposed to the front electrical equipment bay; and 17 small substations handle the power to local loads.
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