A United Airlines flight from Houston to Newark made an emergency landing in New Orleans this morning after mechanical issues arose shortly after take-off. This is the first such diversion for United with the new aircraft. The plane, N26902, is the most recent Dreamliner delivered to the company from Boeing and has only been flying two weeks prior to this incident. Neither Boeing nor United are sharing details regarding the cause of the diversion or about what systems failed. There is some speculation that it is related to the electrical systems on the plane. Reviewing the ATC broadcasts from the event has the pilot confirming that to the tower at one point.
We’re going to have them look us over. We had an electrical malfunction.
My flight on the 787 a few days ago was delayed a couple hours for undisclosed "maintenance issues" so things are definitely not running smoothly for the 787 aircraft at United these days. That’s not too much of a surprise as they are learning the quirks of the new planes. But it is still unfortunate.
UPDATE: Listened to more ATC communications. Shortly before landing the pilot offered up these observations to the tower to share with the fire crew:
If, in fact, anything going on it’ll be the area right behind the wing. Rear of the wing back to the third door on each side, okay?
It’s behind the wing where the high load electrical stuff is about back to the rear cargo but we don’t anticipate anything. That’s just where he needs to be, so following us will be perfect.
Shortly after landing and after the fire department did an initial inspection the pilot requested a report looking for fire damage:
We need a visual inspection, make sure they don’t see discoloration or dripping plastic.
That area of the plane is where all the APU and other power distribution bits are housed. If there was a problem with the high-power lines overheating or drawing too much power and tripping a breaker that’s where it would be. I’m very interested to see how this plays out. Electrical issues on a plane are bad. Electrical issues on a plane which is actually mostly a computer which also happens to fly are really, really, really bad.