A Boeing 787 jetliner on a test flight over Texas made an emergency landing on Tuesday after smoke was detected in the main cabin, the latest setback in development of the new plane.
The plane landed safely in Laredo and the crew was evacuated, Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said. Boeing is still gathering information about the incident, she said.
The smoke appeared in the rear cabin of the plane, farthest from the cockpit, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The pilot landed and advised he was declaring an emergency,” said Lunsford, who added that the airport fire department was called to the scene. He said the FAA would look into the incident.
Boeing said one person suffered a minor injury as the crew of 30 to 40 people were being evacuated down exit slides.
The 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, is made of composite material designed to make it lighter and more fuel-efficient, but Boeing has run into a series of delays in developing the big, two-aisle passenger plane.
Boeing has said it will deliver the first production models of the 787 to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in the middle of the first quarter of next year – about three years behind schedule.
Development of the aircraft has been pushed back several times by snags including availability of Rolls-Royce engines and supplier workmanship issues. The company halted test flights last summer after finding that some parts in the tail were not properly installed.
It was unclear whether Tuesday’s incident would add to the delays.
Boeing is conducting flight tests with several 787s, some with Rolls-Royce engines, which will be the first models delivered to airlines, and others with General Electric engines. The company said last month it had completed takeoff and handling tests for the initial version of the plane, but that more testing was needed for 787s with GE engines.
The Dreamliner involved in the Texas landing has made 179 test flights spanning more than 558 hours, according to Boeing.
Boeing is relying on suppliers from around the country and the world to build components for the plane. The company has taken 847 orders from 56 customers.
This news comes as Boeing claims it has eclipsed European rival Airbus in the number of net orders received this year, registering 480 to 369 for Airbus.
Airbus, a unit of European aerospace giant EADS, said in a statement that at the end of October it had received 421 overall orders, of which 52 were cancelled, leaving a total of 369.
Boeing had received 553 orders in the year to November 2, or 480 after the cancellation of 73 of them, the company said.
Airbus since the start of the year has delivered 417 aircraft, including 15 A380 superjumbos, the world’s largest civilian airliner. The company scored an important point on Monday with an announcement by Japan’s low-fare Skymark Airlines that it would buy four A380s, with an option to buy two more. The deal gives Airbus foothold in a market where Boeing has long had a near-monopoly.
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