Fire-damaged Boeing 787 returns to Seattle

SEATTLE — The Boeing 787 Dreamliner that was badly damaged by an in-flight fire Nov. 9 returned Tuesday to Seattle from Laredo, Texas, after being repaired.

"Maintenance technicians replaced the damaged P100 power distribution panel, repaired damage to interior composite structure and installed new insulation material," Boeing said in a statement.

Boeing said its team in Laredo "has completed a series of ground test operations and inspections to validate the repairs."

The P100 is one of two main power panels; it distributes power generated by the left engine to run vital systems around the airplane.

The fire started in an electrical box called a contactor, low down on the P100 panel. A contactor opens or closes circuits as the power needs of the airplane systems fluctuate.

Boeing said last week that "the fault began as either a short circuit or an electrical arc ... most likely caused by the presence of foreign debris."

The flight back to Seattle was not a test flight. Its purpose was simply to get the plane back to base for further investigation of the incident and preparation for a return to testing later.

Boeing's six flight-test airplanes were grounded after the fire, and Boeing has not yet completed its assessment of when flight tests can resume.

A new delay in the jet's entry into service with All Nippon Airways is certain, but the company hasn't yet specified how long the delay will be.

Last week, Boeing said the in-flight fire will necessitate "minor design changes to power distribution panels on the 787."

In addition, because the fire caused an extensive loss of power on the flight, blanking out the main pilot display screens in the cockpit, Boeing must also update "the systems software that manages and protects power distribution on the airplane."

A revised 787 program schedule "is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks," Boeing said.