Debris from S.C.-built Boeing 787 sparks fire, closes airport

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Federal officials are trying to determine why debris fell from the engine of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, starting a fire and forcing officials to shut down a South Carolina airport.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that debris from the aircraft fell onto the runway at Charleston International Airport and into the grass Saturday, sparking a blaze that closed the airport for more than an hour.

Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger says the aircraft was undergoing preflight runway testing in North Charleston when the incident occurred. The 787 was the latest one built at the Boeing campus in North Charleston.

No one was injured in the incident.

Company spokesman Marc Birtel said the company could not disclose the nature of the engine issue due to rules surrounding the investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation, and Eslinger said Boeing is committed to working with federal officials to find the cause of the accident and taking action to prevent a recurrence.

"As the NTSB investigates, Boeing and GE are working closely with the agency and are committed to resolving the issue appropriately," Eslinger said in a prepared statement.

"While the investigation is in its early stages, we are unaware of any operational issue that would present concerns about the continued safe operation of in-service 787s powered by GE engines. However, should the investigation determine a need to act, Boeing has the processes in place to take action and will do so appropriately," she added.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Terry Williams said there was no information available at this time but expects investigators are reviewing the case and may release some details by Monday.

The Dreamliner jet is one of Boeing's most critical products. The company delivered the first 787 last year following several years of design and production delays. Airlines set record orders for the jet, as its lightweight, high-tech design was expected to offer travelers more comfort, provide airlines significant fuel savings and open up new routes.