Securaplane has grouped its lithium-ion battery technology under the “System Lithium” brand. Typically, such batteries weigh about half the weight of a traditional sealed lead-acid or nickel-cadmium battery, and in a large aircraft can save up to 200 pounds. Rather than being a single, sealed unit, the company’s lithium-iron phosphate batteries typically comprise clusters of low-power, smartphone-style cells packaged in a unit with advanced electronic cell management and health monitoring, with each cell surrounded by several layers of short-circuit protection.
The corporate and business aviation sectors have posted strong safety numbers, recording few accidents, but that is no reason for operators to become complacent. That was the message from NTSB member Robert Sumwalt at the Flight Safety Foundation/NBAA annual Business Aviation Safety Summit (Bass), held in late April in San Diego.
The National Transportation Safety Board on May 22 issued five safety recommendations to the FAA related to the evaluation and certification of lithium-ion batteries, as well as the certification of new technology. The recommendations evolved through the ongoing investigation of a Jan. 7, 2013, lithium-ion battery fire aboard a Boeing 787 parked at Boston Logan Airport.
U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) members and technical specialists questioned representatives of Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday about assumptions they made in determining the probability of lithium-ion batteries failing on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Only one business jet thus far has been certified with a lithium-ion main-ship battery, Cessna’s Citation CJ4, which employed lithium-iron phosphate technology, unlike the lithium-cobalt oxide chemistry in the Boeing 787 batteries. No other business jet has been certified with a lithium-ion main-ship battery, although Gulfstream had planned to employ a lithium-ion battery in the G650 before switching to a nickel-cadmium battery while the aircraft was still working its way toward certification.
Stricter International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations for the bulk shipment of lithium batteries by air took effect on January 1. Smaller quantities and packages of the widely used batteries, which can overheat and catch fire, now stand subject to labeling, packaging and documentation requirements.