LONDON – A fire aboard an empty 787 at Heathrow Airport spooked Boeing investors Friday, as they feared the re-emergence of battery problems that grounded the plane for months this year.
At one point, a rapid sell-off had knocked $6 billion off Boeing’s market value. The stock recovered slightly as speculation about the cause of the fire shifted away from the batteries. Shares closed down $5.01, or 4.7 percent, to $101.87.
The cause of the fire on the Ethiopian Airlines plane – which broke out more than 8 hours after it had landed – remained under investigation.
Meanwhile, an unspecified mechanical issue caused another 787 flown by Thomson Airways to return to Manchester Airport, adding to concerns about the plane.
Runways at Heathrow were shut down for nearly an hour as emergency crews put out the fire. No passengers were on the plane.
The 787, which Boeing dubs the Dreamliner, was grounded in January following two incidents with its lithium-ion batteries. One 787 caught fire shortly after it landed at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Jan. 7.
Boeing marketed the plane to airlines as a revolutionary jet which – thanks to its lightweight design – burns 20 percent less fuel to comparable aircraft. Boeing, based in Chicago, has delivered 66 of the planes to customers with another 864 of them on order.
Boeing’s stock partially rebounded after photos were circulated showing the section of the plane damaged by the fire – an area far away from the battery compartment.