Japanese Lithium-Ion Battery At Heart of Boeing’s 787 Problems

A schematic drawing of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet. Image from www.aerospaceweb.org.

A schematic drawing of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet. Image from http://www.flightglobal.com.

Boeing has been having issues with its new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet lately – most of which can be shrugged off as birthing pains for the plane – but a recent battery fire aboard a jet has fueled overall concern—especially after Japan ordered a grounding of all 787 planes.

Luckily, the fire occurred aboard the 787 while it was on the tarmac of Logan International Airport in Boston. No one was hurt during the small but intense fire that was only 20 centimeters in width.

For a look at the 787 incidents that led to the grounding, click HERE.

The culprit for the fire is a lithium-ion battery – you can read about that and see a photo of the burned out battery HERE.

The Japan Transport and Safety Board, along with the U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) have been looking into possible causes for the lithium-ion battery fire, and while they still don’t know what caused it, they do know one thing that did NOT cause it.

After a battery used to power many electrical systems overheated aboard an All Nippon Airways (ANA) 787 Dreamliner earlier this month, they noticed there was a quick and sudden drop in voltage. They suspected that it was overcharged.

Turns out, those suspicions were not validated.

Japan Transport Safety Board chairman Goto Norihiro (surname first) says that the plane’s data recorder showed the main battery did not exceed its maximum voltage.

The highest voltage recorded for this battery was 31 volts—below the 32 volt limit. So

Okay… so… the easiest solution is not the answer.

The lithium-ion battery is not generally utilized in aircraft, and the hopes for Japanese company GS Yuasa who manufacture the battery have taken a beating with the recent debacle. You can read about that HERE.

All 50 of the 787 Dreamliners delivered globally by Boeing have been been grounded, with Boeing holding back on further deliveries until the electrical battery problem is resolved.

Next up, the FAA and Safety Board will look at the 787‘s auxiliary battery to compare its data with the damaged one. They are also using JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) for help, looking into the inner workings of the burnt battery via CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) scans to create a 3D image of the inside of the battery.

Andrew Joseph

About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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