Mistakes committed by Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) resulted in a fire aboard a 787 Dreamliner almost 2 years ago. The affected aircraft was parked at a gate at Boston’s Logan International Airport as a consequence.
Luckily, there were no passengers aboard while the ground crew of the Japan Airlines detected the fire. Just two weeks before this episode, a similar battery fire was observed in another Dreamliner two weeks due to which the entire fleet of the 787 was grounded for a month all over the world.
Boeing opted for the lithium-ion batteries because of multiple reasons like: these are small in size, lightweight and more powerful than classic ones. In presence of new batteries, Boeing was able to swap out heavy hydraulic systems for lighter electronics, which made the Dreamliner consume 20% lesser jet fuel than any similar-size aircraft.
Boeing already has redesigned the battery to eliminate the risk of overheating and to prevent fire from spreading. The new changes include: a steel case around the battery and a tube that vents fumes outside the fuselage. This April, the FAA said the Dreamliners were safe to soar.
In Monday’s report, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) commented that even with those new changes, the batteries’ cells could overheat. The board said the FAA should work with aviation experts to make the batteries safer.
Sale figures of the Dreamliner 787 have recently been going up as Boeing has managed to address manufacturing problems and avoid delivery delays.
The NTSB report further questioned Boeing about its decisions to outsource more of its manufacturing to other companies. For the manufacturing of the plane’s power conversion system, Boeing contracted with Thales Group which happens to be a French firm. Thales then subcontracted the manufacturing of the battery to GS Yuasa of Japan.
The NTSB concluded that GS Yuasa’s manufacturing process allowed for defects in the battery and that its testing was flawed. The board said that Boeing should provide more oversight of its suppliers, including secondary providers such as GS Yuasa.
Kenneth Quinn, a spokesperson for GS Yuasa, said newer batteries have design enhancements approved by the FAA.
“We’re always eager to implement continuous quality improvement,” Quinn said, “and will study the board’s findings and recommendations carefully.”
The FAA did not respond to a request for comment.
Doug Alder, a Boeing spokesman, said the company remains confident in the Dreamliner’s safety.
“We continue to work reliability improvements on the 787 and will do so throughout the span of the program,” he said.
Source: LA Times