Boeing executives expressed what they consider a “reasonable expectation” that the 787 Dreamliner would return to service in a matter of a few weeks at a briefing last Friday in Tokyo during which they detailed the company’s plan for certifying a solution to the “issues” surrounding the airplane’s lithium-ion batteries. However, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner and 787 chief program engineer Mike Sinnett acknowledged that the timing will depend completely on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s certification schedule and a smooth execution of the testing.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to focus on the design, certification and manufacturing processes of the lithium-ion battery system used on the grounded Boeing 787.
Whenever the non-aviation media gets hold of a story that involves aircraft certification issues, such as the recent Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery problems, an enterprising reporter “discovers” that the FAA applied “special conditions” to the certification of the product in question. These stories seem to imply that the manufacturer was given some sort of special dispensation, a way to get around the regulations to obtain the FAA’s stamp of approval.
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.
The International Civil Aviation Organization approved a temporary ban on carrying lithium-ion batteries as standard cargo on passenger aircraft last week. An interim amendment approved on February 13 rescinded ICAO’s earlier exemption that allowed lithium-ion batteries weighing up to 35 kg (77 pounds) to be carried. Batteries weighing approximately 66 pounds were responsible for two recent fires aboard the now-grounded Boeing 787 airliner.
Airbus has decided against using a lithium-ion main ship battery for the A350 XWB following the findings by the U.S. National Transportation Board of short-circuiting and “thermal runaway” in the APU battery that caught fire on January 7 in a Jap
In a February 7 news conference, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman explained the latest findings on the battery problem that resulted in the grounding of the Boeing 787 fleet three weeks ago.
EaglePicher Technologies expects to certify a lithium-ion main-ship aircraft battery by year-end, according to Ron Nowlin, vice president and general manager of EaglePicher Aerospace Systems. The battery has been selected for a jet, but Nowlin was unable to reveal the OEM and said he “cannot confirm” news reports “that we are doing any work for Cessna.”
The subject of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries took on urgent new meaning following two thermal runaway incidents with lithium-ion batteries installed in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. A lot of information—and misinformation—surrounds lithium-ion technology, and experts from all over are weighing in with their opinions.
The Cessna Citation CJ4 is currently the only business jet certified with (but no longer flying with) a lithium-ion main-ship battery, using lithium-iron phosphate, not the lithium-cobalt oxide battery found on the Boeing 787, which is currently grounded in the wake of battery fires.