United 787 diverts with mechanical issues

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.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. ‘as they are learning the quirks of the new planes’: how many dozen have already been delivered? how many times were the aircraft reworked and cross checked?

    1. Only three have been delivered to United. And, as you certainly know, Oliver, each airline configures their version of an aircraft a bit differently.

  2. Some ask for their aircraft working, some ask for them with ‘quirks’. Isn’t IAH-AMS up for the first UA TATL 787 soon?

  3. I intentionally avoided flying 380s for a year. While in light of the qf event, perhaps a year was too short of a seasoning period, it is good to see some meaningful in-service operating history before boarding!

    I’m glad everyone is ok.

  4. The only “quirk” on my flight last weekend (operated by the first aircraft delivered to UA) was that the wall monitor on the bulkhead of the first economy row didn’t work, so we had to pull out the personal displays to watch the safety video.

  5. That’s what happens when you outsource as much as Boeing does. There is going to be stuff going on with this plane for a while.

  6. I flew on UA 1146 the day before the problem flight. I booked the flight specifically because I wanted to experience the Dreamliner. However when I got to the gate, much to my chagrin, I found that they had changed our equipment to a 757 due to “maintenance issues”. What a disappointment. So yeah, seems UAL is still working out the bugs.

  7. I heard from some FA’s this weekend that there was issues with one of the LAX flights as well… not a good start. Hope they have it figured out by April 🙂

  8. A little off topic but on the 787 flight Sun from IAH-SFO the FAs couldn’t figure out how to lock the restroom doors. At least 3 tried to figure it out. So lots of mechanical and personnel “quirks” being worked on.

  9. IAH-AMS will be one time service December 11/12. Turned out to be one of the six generators failed, which hopefully isn’t really a big deal.

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