Boeing, battery maker at odds over 787 fix: WSJ

SAN FRANCISCO/TOKYO Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:40pm EST

The Boeing logo is seen on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane in Long Beach, California March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The Boeing logo is seen on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane in Long Beach, California March 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

SAN FRANCISCO/TOKYO (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N) and the Japanese firm that makes lithium-ion batteries for the 787 Dreamliner disagree about what should be included in a package of measures aimed at getting the airliner back in the air, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner told reporters in Tokyo that there was no dispute with GS Yuasa Corp (6674.T) about the proposed solution, adding the planemaker has "a great partnership" with the Kyoto-based battery maker.

All 50 of the technologically-advanced Dreamliners in service have been grounded since mid-January after a battery fire on a Japan Airlines Co Ltd (9201.T) 787 at Boston airport and a second battery incident on an All Nippon Airways Co Ltd (9202.T) flight in Japan.

GS Yuasa believes the battery fix should include a voltage regulator that could stop electricity from entering the battery, the Journal said, citing government and industry officials.

Boeing proposed its fix to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last Friday. The previous day, GS Yuasa told the FAA that its laboratory tests indicated a power surge outside the battery, or other external problem, started the failures on the two batteries, according to the newspaper.

Boeing's solution included a stronger containment box, a battery with greater cooling capacity and other changes.

The FAA confirmed the meeting with GS Yuasa, but gave no details. A GS Yuasa spokesman declined to comment.

PERMANENT SOLUTION

Following talks with Japan's transport minister Akihiro Ota on Thursday, Boeing's Conner said the company's proposal to the FAA was a permanent solution, not an interim fix.

"We see nothing in the technology that tells us that it is not the appropriate thing to do. The solution set we put in place provides three layers of protection," he said in response to a reporter's question on whether Boeing would consider dropping the lithium-ion battery from the lightweight, fuel-efficient Dreamliner.

"We feel this solution takes into account any possible incident that may occur, any casual factor that could cause an event, and we are very confident we have a fix that will be permanent and allow us to continue with the technology."

Earlier, Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said investigations had not shown that overcharging was a factor, and he noted the 787 had quadruple-redundant protection against overcharging. He did not respond directly to comments about GS Yuasa, but said Boeing was coordinating with key suppliers.

No comment was immediately available from Securaplane Technologies Inc, a U.S. unit of Britain's Meggitt Plc (MGGT.L), which makes the charger for the 787 batteries.

All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines operate nearly half of the Dreamliners that Boeing has delivered to date.

(Reporting By Jim Wolf, Andrea Shalal-Esa, Mari Saito, James Topham and Peter Henderson; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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Comments (2)
WJL wrote:
Boeing and the FAA should come clean and state what are really the real problems!!! The constant cover ups and bandage aids will not solve the problem and reduce the risks to the public. It will be prudent not to fly the on this plane for at least 3 years to confirm that the plane is safe.

Feb 28, 2013 1:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
flysafe wrote:
After weeks of not seeing any mention of Securaplane Technologies, thank you for finally bringing them back into the story. The 2006 fire and explosion that leveled their plant in Arizona is a critical part of understanding the current situation. A test pilot with 787 experience just visited GS Yuasa on his own and found the manufacturer to be very open and informative; not so yet with Securaplane, but nevertheless, it’s important for the public to understand that the charger and the battery work together, either to cause disaster or prevent one.
A properly designed charger will not allow for a degraded or defective, damaged or overheated battery to receive further charge; the Boeing proposals need to go much further in the modifications to the charger, and their containment is not a satisfactory solution if the batteries lack a credible heat management system, preferably with a liquid cooling loop. Such a loop might even be able to circulate non-flammable or fire suppressing agents in addition to evening out the cell-to-cell heating. Fire suppression and mitigation might be accomplished with nanospheres carried in a delivery medium of coolant or delivered via pressurized charge; in any case, much further work is needed before the aircraft, and its charging system and battery configuration may be allowed to fly again. A rush to recertify the aircraft is already afoot here in the United States; hopefully other nations will not succumb to the same pressures as US authorities.

Feb 28, 2013 3:19am EST  --  Report as abuse
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