A serious in-flight fire in the electric equipment bay of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight test plane forced an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas, Tuesday. All aboard were safely evacuated on slides.
The fire affected the cockpit controls and the jet lost its primary flight displays and its auto-throttle, according to a person familiar with the incident. The flight and engine controls, which on the Dreamliner are all-electric, weren’t fully functional, this person said.
A small emergency power generator called the Ram Air Turbine (RAT) that typically kicks in only when both primary and auxiliary power sources are lost was automatically deployed. The RAT, a device like a small dynamo that drops down from the fuselage and generates power from the air flowing past the aircraft, provides sufficient power for flight controls and other vital systems in an emergency.