Boeing Plans Battery Redesign to Get Dreamliners Airbone Again

By Paul Riegler on 6 February 2013
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ANA's Dreamliner in Seattle for its launch flight to NRT

ANA’s Dreamliner in Seattle for its launch flight to NRT

Boeing is looking into redesigning the large lithium-ion batteries used in the 787 Dreamliner aircraft as an interim measure that would get the grounded planes safely in the air again.  The aircraft manufacturer told customers it hopes to have the solution in place by the end of the month, although it needs to gain approval by multiple regulatory authorities across the globe for this to happen.

With a permanent solution that is probably months away, Boeing is considering a short-term solution that would increase the separation between cells to isolate them against the thermal runaway domino effect that may have caused at least one of the fires.  In January, the Dreamliner battery design was criticized by Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, a producer of electric automobiles, as lacking sufficient separation.

Boeing may also look into ways to make the cells more rigid and could possibly add better heat sensors.

Since the investigation by U.S. and Japanese authorities has not yet yielded the root cause of the two fires that led to the immediate grounding, it is also unclear as to whether officials would accept an interim fix.

According to multiple reports, the Federal Aviation Administration has told Boeing that any interim fixes must improve the warning time for battery malfunction and significantly reduce the risk if any component has a problem while in use.

All 50 Dreamliners were grounded on January 16, and a probe by the Federal Aviation Administration and Japan’s civil aviation bureau at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport continues.  The separate investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and Japan Transport Safety board into the root cause of the battery problem will also continue.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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