Canada Broadens Inspections of Aircraft Emergency Beacons

August 16, 2013

Canada on Thursday ordered airlines to inspect emergency beacons on a broad list of aircraft for possible wiring problems that could lead to a fire.

The order from Transport Canada comes after a fire broke out on July 12 at London’s Heathrow airport aboard a parked Boeing 787 owned by Ethiopian Airlines.

British investigators are still determining the cause, but they found pinched wires in the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) sold by Honeywell International Inc that was in the area where the fire started and recommended the devices be inspected on other aircraft types.

The beacons send a radio signal in the event of a crash, helping rescue workers locate the wreckage. The Honeywell ELTs are made in conjunction with Instrumar Ltd, a supplier based in St. Johns, Newfoundland.

So far, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has only required inspections of ELTs on Boeing 787 Dreamliners. But other regulators, and Boeing itself, have recommended inspections on other types of aircraft.

On Thursday, Transport Canada said airlines should look for possible wiring problems in Honeywell ELTs on planes made by Boeing, Airbus, McDonnell Douglas, ATR, Lockheed Martin Corp and Dassault Aviation. That move could potentially expand the list to thousands of aircraft, though Transport Canada could not immediately estimate the number.

Honeywell said it had produced nearly 6,000 of the devices.

Honeywell said it supports the move, and noted that the cause of the July 12 fire has not been determined.

“Detailed analysis, inspections and testing are expected to continue for several months before root cause is finally determined,” the company said.

Boeing said it supports the mandatory inspections, and had already recommended customers inspect planes with Honeywell ELTs on up to 1,200 of its planes. Airbus had not asked airlines to inspect the devices across its fleet.

Transport Canada said operators should check the full product lines of Boeing and Airbus, plus out-of-production models such as the Boeing 757 and 767 and the Airbus A300 and A310. It also includes the Lockheed L-382, the ATR42 and 72 aircraft and the Dassault Falcon 7X business jet.

The rule takes effect on Aug. 26 and operators have 150 days to comply.

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