Aviation News

December 4, 2012

United 787 Makes Emergency Landing In New Orleans After Electrical Scare

A United Airlines Boeing 787 made an emergency landing in New Orleans on Tuesday after experiencing what the airline called a “mechanical issue” while air traffic control conversations seemed to indicate an electrical problem.

According to FlightAware data, United Flight 1146, flying from Houston to Newark, was cruising at 41,000-feet, near the three-state border between Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, when it began descending and turned toward a landing at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

As the aircraft approached MSY’s Runway 10, the tower informed the pilots that fire trucks would probably follow them down the runway after touch down. This exchange between the crew and air traffic controllers followed, seemingly indicating an electrical problem (via LiveATC.net):

UA 1146: If in fact anything’s going on it’ll be the area right behind the wings, the rear of the wings back to the third door on each side.
Tower: Which wing?
UA 1146: Uh, we don’t know. Either one. It might be on either side. But it’s behind the wing where high load electrical stuff is and back to the rear cargo. But we don’t anticipate anything, that’s just where he needs to be.
Tower: Okay.
UA 1146: So following us would be perfect.

After touching down at around 10:30 AM ET, the pilots requested that the firemen make a visual inspection to “make sure they don’t see any discoloration or dripping plastic.” After the tower replied that “they didn’t see anything” the plane proceeded to a gate to offload its 170 passengers, who were taken to Newark aboard another plane.

The plane in question is registration N26902, United’s third and most-recently delivered 787, though with the build number 50, it was actually built earlier than the other two, 53 and 77.

Without any further details from United or Boeing, Tuesday’s incident seems at least remotely similar to one in 2010, when a Boeing 787 test flight experienced a fire in the aft electronics bay. The aft electronics bay stretches across the fuselage near the rear edge of the wings, the same area UA 1146 mentioned to the control tower. Boeing investigators later said that fire was sparked by a tool left behind in the bay by a worker.