Ever heard of the butterfly effect? You know, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in Liberia today might cause a hurricane in Brazil next week? There's a live demonstration of that ripple effect going on right now.
Earlier today, a Boeing (NYSE:BA) 787 Dreamliner caught fire while parked and unoccupied at London's Heathrow airport. Boeing has not yet explained what caused the fire aboard this Ethiopian Airlines plane, but Dreamliners have suffered internal fires before due to faulty batteries. The battery issue kept Dreamliners grounded for three months, and Boeing couldn't deliver any new planes until the battery system was redesigned.
So there's reason to believe that something might be amiss with the 787 again, which would be bad news for Boeing indeed.
The fire didn't just damage some expensive airline property, but splashed collateral damage all over the place. Heathrow -- one of the world's busiest airports -- was shut down for about an hour, judging by Heathrow's official Twitter feed. Boeing shares have plunged 3.2% as of 1:50 p.m. EDT due to fears of another sales halt, erasing much of the recent share-price recovery. In the process, Boeing shaved 26 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), single-handedly turning the index's gains into minor losses.
If this fire turns out to reveal another show-stopping issue with the Dreamliner, then all of these side effects will be justified. In fact, Boeing may be in for a ton of additional pain if the issue can't be dismissed quickly and convincingly. After all, share prices remained grounded between the battery problem's unveiling in January and the FAA-approved fix in March -- and then Boeing took off.
If the Dreamliner were to become a nightmare, bringing Boeing back to something like February's prices, then shareholders would be in for another horrifying 25% plunge. The stakeholders are many -- Boeing shareholders, airlines and their passengers, and 200 Dow points associated with a drop like that, just to name a few.
This may be the first time that many people have desperately hoped for a case of arson, which wouldn't be the Dreamliner's fault.
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