(Adds FAA comment)
By Alwyn Scott
SEATTLE May 22 The U.S. agency that
investigates air crashes on Thursday called for lithium-ion
batteries on Boeing's 787 Dreamliners to undergo more testing to
ensure they are safe.
The National Transportation Safety Board urged the Federal
Aviation Administration to develop better tests for the
uncontrolled overheating that led to a battery fire on a
Dreamliner in 2013, require the tests for future aircraft
designs and check whether 787s and other planes that have the
batteries need more testing.
The NTSB stopped short of calling lithium-ion batteries or
planes flying with them unsafe. The batteries are widely used in
cars, laptops and smartphones and have a tendency to overheat
through processes that are not well understood by scientists.
The NTSB has not yet determined a root cause for the 787
fire in Boston in January 2013. No one was injured in the fire,
or in two other 787 battery incidents, one in January 2014.
Regulators grounded the 787 fleet for three months last year
while Boeing designed a steel containment box and other measures
to stifle battery fires on the innovative jet.
Boeing said it supports efforts to improve certification
The FAA said it would carefully review the NTSB's
Boeing also said the tests it conducted in overhauling the
787 battery system last year "are fully consistent with the
recommendations made by the NTSB today. We therefore remain
confident in the safety and integrity of the comprehensive
battery solution which was developed by Boeing, and approved by
the FAA, last year."
Hans Weber, a former FAA adviser and president of consulting
firm TECOP International, said the NTSB's recommendations were
important to ensuring safety.
"It's a professional, serious step in dealing with new
technology that has resulted in some scary failures," Weber
said. "Whether the FAA acts on this one or not remains to be
In calling for the changes before its fire investigation
ends, the NTSB signaled safety could be improved and pressed the
FAA to proceed without delay.
In a 12-page letter, the NTSB said it sought "to urge the
FAA to take action" on its five recommendations, which include
seeking advice from independent experts on new technologies well
before they're authorized for use on aircraft.
The NTSB criticized testing the FAA, Boeing and battery
maker GS Yuasa Corp of Japan relied on in certifying
the batteries for use in the 787. Recent NTSB tests showed
results are affected by environmental factors, such as how the
battery was installed and the temperature of the air around it.
Accordingly, the NTSB urged development of new tests that
simulate an aircraft environment.
While the NTSB's letter focused on Boeing's 787, the board
noted the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 and 737 also have
Since certification tests for the various aircraft are not
standardized, the NTSB advised the FAA to review testing used to
support certification of other aircraft.
"Lithium-ion battery designs on airplanes currently in
service might not have adequately accounted for the hazards
associated with internal short circuiting," the NTSB said.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Meredith
Mazzilli and Cynthia Osterman)