UPDATE Oct. 16, 2013:
Boeing said Wednesday that an investigation revealed that the panel came off the 787 during landing, and that it was recovered at the Bangalore airport.

A 4-foot-by-8-foot panel fell off an Air India 787 Dreamliner during the weekend somewhere between its takeoff in Delhi and its landing in Bangalore.

News photos from Delhi on Tuesday showed a large opening into the underbelly of the plane, but apparently it did not extend into the pressurized part of the airplane.

Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said the panel that fell off, known as the mid-underwing-to-body fairing, is located on the belly of the airplane on the right side.

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She said the panel is a nonstructural part that aerodynamically contours the surface between the wing and the underbelly and covers the jet’s air conditioning packs.

“The event posed no risk to the continued safe operation of the flight,” Gunter added. “We’re engaged with Air India to provide support needed.”

Boeing’s description implies that the panel must be removable by airline mechanics to service the air conditioning packs.

That raises the possibility that the panel was improperly replaced after servicing by an Air India mechanic.

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com