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Maker of 787 transmitter joining UK fire probe

July 15, 2013

Honeywell said Monday that it has been asked to join the investigation into last week’s fire on a 787 at London’s Heathrow Airport amid reports that investigators are looking at whether the plane’s emergency transmitter played a role.

The transmitter sends a signal with the plane’s location if it’s involved in a crash.

The fire on a parked Ethiopian Airlines 787 Friday brought back memories of two smoldering lithium-ion batteries in January that caused authorities to ground the 787 worldwide for more than three months. Boeing redesigned the systems that include those large, powerful batteries to win government approval so 787s could fly again.

Honeywell’s emergency transmitter uses a lithium-manganese battery. That is a type of lithium-ion battery but with different chemistry that is considered more stable.

The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Saturday that the most recent fire occurred well away from the lithium-ion batteries. Published reports Monday said investigators were examining whether the transmitter could have caused or contributed to the fire.

A spokeswoman on Monday declined to say whether the focus had shifted to the emergency locater and warned against speculation on the causes of the incident.

Honeywell declined to specify why authorities asked it to participate in the investigation.

“It’s far too premature to speculate on the cause, or draw conclusions,” spokesman Steve Brecken said in a written statement. He directed other questions to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which is helping with the investigation.

Brecken said Honeywell’s emergency transmitters “have been certified by the FAA since 2005, are used on a number of aircraft models, and we’ve not seen nor experienced a single reported issue on this product line.”

Boeing shares rose $3.79, or 3.7 percent, to close at $105.66. Investors were relieved that the fire doesn’t appear to involve the lithium-ion batteries. Shares of Honeywell International Inc. fell 7 cents to close at $82.30.

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AP Writer Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.

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