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Boeing warned in 2006 about dangerous 787 batteries

Amazing power struggle behind closed doors comes to light and surely attracts lawsuits about wrong doing. ( More...

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Brian Lager 10
Lithium Ion battery problems are well documented. Specificaly, overcharging leads to a very unstable battery. The only real advantage lithium has over NiCad is its weight to power ratio. Given all of its potential faults, I would think taking a step back would be prudent. Seeing as the empty weight of the 787 is 242,000 lbs and its max TO weight is 505,000 lbs surely the weight of its batteries are insignifcent.
Ah well, just another law suit around the corner.
Kevin Brown 3
This is what I wonder also. The Li-ion battery that caught fire in the Boston incident was about a cubic foot in size and could be easily carried under the arm. This is the battery that supplies the APU. How many other batteries are there like this on the a/c as part of the "main ship" supply"? Even at half the weight of the safer NiCad it seems to me the weight savings would be negligible. I understand that manufacturers need to find weight savings everywhere but to take this kind of risk to save a few hundred pounds seems crazy.
mrippe 5
lion batteries are everywhere. in laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc. i have searched the web and have found not one lion pack has exploded, caught fire, etc in the past two years. the original issue with the lion was that system designers assumed that the lion was like any other battery. so just shove a bunch of volts and amps into them and all should be fine. well, it obviously wasn't. with the advent of proper safety and charging systems, this issue is pretty much a thing of the past.
until now !! what is needed now are cool heads, like those who contribute here, examining all aspects of the issue and contributing there thoughts.
what doesn't help is the self styled experts jumping into the conversations with statements like
"Quoting sources that would speak only on the condition of anonymity"
or that the battery in the boston incident "exploded causing severe damage to the airplane"
or my favorite,
"Securaplane's main buildings were burned to the ground when a battery test went wrong"
what they don't say here is that "an investigation into that fire determined the cause was the set-up of the test, not the design of the battery or the charger."
looking at the systems in the 787, the safety circuits and the charge controllers appear to be properly designed and should be making the packs safe. so, in my mind, the issue has to be the construction of the battery pack itself.
what is different? the battery is vented overboard. is there an issue with the cell construction that caused the cell cases to expand and contract, possibly wearing away some of the insulating materials and causing a short?
when the cell is constructed, is there an air bubble between the plate and the separator that expands and contracts with changes in pressure brought about by changes in altitude, which wears a small hole in the separator, causing a short?
is it the loads of takeoff and landings, deforming the cells and again causing internal shorts? or both? or something else?
could the fix be something simple like building shelves to allow the cells to stand on end rather than on their sides so the cell cases don't flex as much? or liquid cooling systems that keep the cell temps at about 100 degrees F (37deg C)?
James Walth 1
The main purpose of aircraft battery is to supply power to the aircraft in emergency situations. On the aircraft that I'm very familiar with, the on board battery is used to start the APU which once on line, supplies power to the aircraft. There is almost no load on the battery unless all other generator power is lost and power is required to operate the aircraft systems.
Interesting to read the comments; sounds like a classic case of cutting quality corners to meet time and cost targets. I get frustrated when I discover this in my factory ... but I'm not developing or manufacturing tin cans that carry hundreds of human lives from point A to point B! Call me naive but I'd put quality (safety) pretty high on the priority list!!!!!
Ric Wernicke 7
What puzzles me is that there is plenty of room in the airplane, and the battery weighs only 60 odd pounds, why not use old nicad? It would be double the size and weight, but how much of a fuel penalty could that cost? I bet less than 50 planes parked in the sun.
Andy Tyler 3
the same reason they switch from paper manuals to iPads. Every pound counts. Every inch of space counts.
dud1 3
The airline business is extremely competitive, just look at the number of mergers and number that are gone broke.

Therefore, to airlines today everything is about the $ and every pound saved is a $ save or more importantly made. Airline insiders advise me that airlines prefer freight over passengers as the $ ratio to the pound is higher i.e. pounds/kilos x $per lb/kg = profits.
dud1 3
There is really no such thing as a standard 747; 787; AB380 etc, as each airline fits the aircraft internals to their requirements i.e. the AB380 on average is around 500 +pounds heavier than the prototypes due to changes in the video systems. Consequently every pound saves is a bonus.
jbqwik 3
What is most stupid to me (sorry, but in this case the word applies) is the apparent total lack of a 'plan B'. As far as I can tell, they put all their eggs into risky business. Anyone with power systems experience knows the problems inherent with LiON technology; we've been there, done that. Boeing is repeating history.
Er.A.K. Mittal 2
This again confirms my view on problems that arise when the professionals cease to act as one . Some managers at the higher level DID NOT react like professionals .And hence the current scene , at Airbus as well as at Boeing . Very Sad and very unfortunate .
ToddBaldwin3 2
Isn't this the reason USPS quit shipping electronics with Li-Ion batteries?
kevin capozzi 2
and they were the cause of a UPS 747-400 crashing in Dubai- and the batteries were just cargo.
Irwin Zane 2
mrippe, you nailed it, expsnsion/contraction, etc.
Dave Boxmeyer 2
It's good enough. Go ahead and ship that battery pack, we need the billings to pay for the new plant.
the aircraft is not ready for service so pull it and then re-introduce, we do not want the emerican equivalent of BAE's comet do we?
Wingscrubber 2
This sort of thing is supposed to be caught in qual-testing. Apparently they only took an ideal duty cycle into account, but this is a MORE-electric aircraft, so those batteries must take a pounding.
If aircraft systems are migrating to more electric, but the electrical systems aren't being designed to take a harsher duty cycle into account, then more-electric = more-dangerous.
There are better ways of making aircraft lighter and more efficient than just turning them into a flying power sub-station, but electricity is the future, and anything not powered by the blue smoke is old-fashioned right? Well this is the result... but I'm sure they'll overcome the teething problems, except when these airplanes get old every A&P mechanic is going to need a degree in electrical engineering. Blah blah ok rant over...
Desmoss 2
Some of you old enough may recall this event in 2008...
nicholas weber 2
So the "Dream" liner remains a dream!!!! At least Boeing got the name right!!!
Some smart cookie investigative reporter should look into whether Boeing ever did a full flight test regime with the 787. It's been well documented in the media for years about the ongoing problems during the development of the 787 leading to delays, cancelled orders and huge financial impact. Hypothesis: did Boeing take major short cuts to 'standard' quality testing? Additionally, the behaviour and requirements of the batteries are well known. Has Boeing under-specified the plane in this context? Finally, if yes to these questions, what other compromises to function and safety have been made in order to cut costs? The lithium battery is unlikely to be the problem here; it's EVERYTHING else that we should be worried about ... Including problems that have not yet surfaced. I'd suggest its early days for Boeing's nightmare-liner.
Michael Fita 1
Check out the LOT Polish airlines 787 its en route to EPWA
If you want to keep track you can enter the registrations, eg
Pat Bell 1
According to another tracking site, LOT2 is a 767-300ER. I looked at United 32 which Flightaware says is a 787 and according to the United site, it is a 777. The 787's are still grounded.
matt jensen 1
I would use these batteries in my Cessna.
Stephen Bottom 1
would not replacing the LI-IONs with stranded battery's as used in most other Boeing aircraft, call for a full flight test regime taking months ????
Chas DeVine 1
NiCad batteries have a memory faction. When discharged to a given level (say 70%), the battery learns to only give-up 30% of it's charge. This must be cycled out frequently.
AWAAlum 1
I have no idea as to the veracity of the following assessment, but I sent this posting to a friend who worked for a battery company supplying batteries for military's his comment:

It's an interesting question, the energy density in Li-ion is significantly higher than Ni-Cad all you need to do is look at the size of cordless power tools, more powerful drills at half the size!

Li-ion needs a very careful charging regime and even then any slight imperfection in the manufacture can lead to thermal runaway. These batteries regularly let go in all sorts of applications . The other issue is that the cells are packed tight into big batteries and when high current is drawn from the battery say at APU start up and turning over engines it is virtually impossible to model the thermal prperties of the battery! The IATA organisation restricts the transportation of bulk Li ion batteries on passenger planes as bulk cargo yet Boeing has put high capacity batteries on the aircraft! Add to that the pressure differential at altitude and the soft pack Li ion cells will swell and shrink which is not good!

It will be safe in the future but if my life is on the line I would prefer ni cad!
AWAAlum 1
The post I added concerning the Li-ion versus the NiCad was an off-the-cuff assessment from a former Major in the British Army who retired and went to work for a battery company as an officer in Sales in the Military Division. I'm fairly certain he has relatively reliable knowledge on this topic. I'm only guessing, of course, but I'm fairly certain comparing those batteries in a Prius or a toy airplane to a battery in a Dreamliner is apples and oranges.
Radio control model flyers use LiPo batteries ( Lithium Polymer ) for electric flying.
They charge and discharge very quickly, hence heating. When there is a problem with the
speed controller, the batteries explode in flames and the model leaves a black silhouette
on the ground!
It's hard to believe this problem with Boeing. Our technology is so advanced.
shane mcmahon 1
Lipo batteries have gone on fire when punctured or on rare occasions while being charged. I've never heard of a faulty speed controller directly causing a Lipo battery to ignite.What has happened is that the speed controller itself has gone on fire and this fire could spread as any fire can spread throughout the model
Neal CLARY 1
Well that's interesting...
Ivo Busko 1
What about the statistics on these batteries as they are used in hybrid cars? I haven't heard of any Prius engulfed in flames because its battery pack overheated. Maybe the problem isn't in the technology in itself, but in the specific batteries used by Boeing.
JetMech24 1
Prius's use a different type of lithium battery, can't remember what, but it's not Ion.
JetMech24 1
Correction, NiCad, not Lithium.
Priuses use Nickle metal hydride,
those can be tortured including shot and won't catch file like lithium batteries, better in every way but energy/kg.
Peter Cooper 1
The old 9 Volt Eveready batteries never caught fire & lasted for years. I wonder how many we'd need for a 787 ?
James Dion 1
Just read a news report that the American and Japanese investigative team are now putting an emphasis on the battery monitoring equipment, other than the Yusa batteries.
One consideration which should be addressed (my thought), is to consider the charger source AC waveform rectification. Sampling AC and digitizing it for DC has been known to generate unwanted heat.
In the Power Industry, power generators must be designed with larger sized neutral cables as a result of the continuing increase of computer loads which require AC rectified for DC use.
Irwin Zane 1
Like I posted 3 days ago expansion/contraction plus the ΔP caused by altitude and landing.
Priuses use nicke metal hydride. they can be tortured, even shot and not go into thermal runaway like lithium batteries. NiMH are in my opinion better in nearly every way except energy/kg. It seems some of the articles that used to be on the web about burns fires, etc are not there. I think Nicad still has "memory issues" if left at full charge, or keep trickle charging them for months at a time you can't get the energy out unless you very carefully discharge the battery fully and then carefully recharge- even then you lose amp hours and high current capacity. There are also some environment issues with cadmium.
Scott Campbell 0
There in route to LAX today
Chas DeVine 0
Relax! Every aircraft has some deviation from the plan. Most are manageable, few go out of control, and fewer still produce a casualty.
btweston 2
Are we still pretending that nothing is going on?
jonathon gatward -1
my brother committed suicide in 2010 and his last eoisode of mania focused around his nokia phone which had caught fire suddenly when being charged, i hope he may now feel a bit better about it where ever he is

[This poster has been suspended.]

AWAAlum 1
It seems to depend on the dictionary you use. The one on my computer states mania: mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and overactivity. It appears many things today depend on where your research is coming from, as though they state opinions rather than fact.
Ok,the real diagnosis is named "cyclothymia" which is very dangerous because the patient has very high and very low emotional phases. During recovering from the deepest depression power is collected to end the life. Because of this hospitals try to keep patients with improving mental status inside.
Sorry this comment belongs to another posting. I do not find the way to clear the lines.
Fido7585 -5
Reading this makes me more than ever determined not to fly the Nightmare-liner. Ever. If one of the batteries burnt the factory down what the hell is it doing in an airplane? Something smells about all of this...


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