Boeing 787 test flight ends in emergency landing

Last Updated Nov 10, 2010 4:33 AM EST

NEW YORK A Boeing 787 jetliner on a test flight over Texas made an emergency landing Tuesday after smoke was detected in the main cabin, the latest setback in development of the new plane.

The plane landed safely in Laredo and the crew was evacuated, Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said. Boeing is still gathering information about the incident, she said.

The smoke appeared in the rear cabin of the plane, farthest from the cockpit, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The pilot landed and advised he was declaring an emergency," said Lunsford, who added that the airport fire department was called to the scene. He said the FAA would look into the incident.

CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports the smoke was apparently coming from the jet's electrical instrument bay, a sensitive area home to much of the plane's control instrumentation, and the 787 did lose some of its engine controls prior to the emergency landing.

Boeing said one person suffered a minor injury as the crew of 42 people were being evacuated down exit slides. The cause of the smoke was unknown Tuesday night, Gunter said.

The 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, is made of composite material designed to make it lighter and more fuel-efficient, but Boeing has run into a series of delays in developing the big, two-aisle passenger plane.

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Boeing has said it will deliver the first production models of the 787 to Japan's All Nippon Airways in the middle of the first quarter of next year - about three years behind schedule.

Development of the aircraft has been pushed back several times by snags including availability of Rolls-Royce engines and supplier workmanship issues. The company halted test flights last summer after finding that some parts in the tail were not properly installed.

It was unclear whether Tuesday's incident would add to the delays.

Boeing is conducting flight tests with several 787s, some with Rolls-Royce engines, which will be the first models delivered to airlines, and others with General Electric engines.

The Rolls-Royce engines are not the same models mounted on Airbus A380s currently being pulled out of the sky by Qantas and Singapore airlines over oil leaks that may have cause one of the massive engines to explode midflight on a Qantas jet last week.

The company said last month it had completed takeoff and handling tests for the initial version of the plane but that more testing was needed for 787s with GE engines.

Boeing is relying on suppliers from around the country and the world to build components for the plane. The company has taken 847 orders for the plane from 56 customers.

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