More Battery Buzz Builds for Boeing

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
By George Hatcher
  • Since U.S. and Japanese authorities have ordered the grounding of Boeing 787s, All Nippon Airways is canceling 177 flights beginning Wednesday. Considering that weather is expected to be grounding European flights anyway, the grounding could not have come at a better time. Plus, any time the precautions come before the fatalities, it is a good day.
  • GS Yuasa Corporation in Kyoto makes the “notorious” lithium-ion battery in the Japan Airlines Co. (9201) plane and an emergency landing by an All Nippon Airways Co. (9202) jet. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will be running battery tests. An NTSB group of four officials and two Japan transport officials will be on hand. To be the fly on the wall of that test!
  • The ANA pilot received 3 warnings that the battery was overheating. This suggests the safety components were working.
  • Investigators were sent to the U.K. to investigate a valve actuator maker for the 787. The company was not identified. If a problem is found, the name of the company will soon be public knowledge
  • The technology has a damning history: Securaplane’s Tucson, Arizona-based unit made the battery charger on the jet that was in the Boston fire on Jan. 7. Whistleblower Michael Leon was employed at Securaplane when he wrote a report (2006) saying that the battery technology was risky and that substitute battery technology should be used on the 787, after which a battery test went wrong and burnt down a Securaplane building. Leon refused to ship a battery assembly to Boeing for the 787 and that battery later malfunctioned in a prototype. Why haven’t we heard this story before? Was the system Michael Leon objected to the same one that is causing problems now?
  • The Seattle Times reported that hot chemicals sprayed out of the battery on the 787 Dreamliner that made an emergency landing in Japan, leaving a gooey dark residue—a different malfunction from the incident in Boston. The plot thickens. More than one problem? Which is the onetime event, and which is the chronic issue (if at all)? That is the factor that will be significant for Boeing and the future of the Dreamliner.
  • Boeing stands by the 4 battery circuits, because they stopped the overheating before a fire started.
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