| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 8 The lithium-ion batteries used
in Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner are getting x-ray scans to
help investigators determine what caused them to overheat and in
one case catch fire.
The scans, scheduled to start this week, are not expected to
delay the resumption of passenger flights on the high-tech jet.
Airlines are phasing the 787 back into schedules over the next
six weeks after the failure of two batteries grounded the fleet
The National Transportation Safety Board has hired a
Maryland contractor to work weekends to scan up to six batteries
in an effort to "avoid potential future accidents involving this
type of aircraft battery," the agency said. The batteries have
not been installed in aircraft and must be shipped to the
company as hazardous materials.
The urgent request allows the NTSB to hire a specific
company to perform the scans quickly, rather than putting the
work out to bid. The NTSB said the it doesn't reflect any
unusual urgency or shift in the investigation.
"There's nothing that's changed," said Peter Knudson, an
NTSB spokesman. "Our investigations are by their very nature
Still, the hiring of a contractor to closely examine both
tested and untested cells provides further detail about an
investigation that has drawn worldwide attention since the
entire fleet of 50 Boeing planes was grounded on January 16,
after a second battery overheated on a flight in Japan.
The NTSB has published hundreds of pages of findings about
the Boston fire, and conducted two rounds of hearings last
month. It is expected recommend changes to the
Federal Aviation Administration when it concludes the
investigation, likely by the end of the year.
Boeing said it is fully supporting the NTSB investigation
and working with customers to install a redesigned battery
system and return Dreamliners to passenger service.
The NTSB gave notice on Friday that it was hiring Chesapeake
Defense Services to perform computed tomography (CT) and digital
radiograph (DR) scans on up to 48 cells. Each battery has eight
cells. Both techniques use x-rays to peer inside materials.
Chesapeake, based in Maryland, declined to comment. The
company's website says it has a sophisticated system to take
detailed x-ray pictures and assemble them into a
The NTSB said that as part of its investigation, it also
plans to perform "tear-down examinations" of the 787 batteries.
It wants the cells carefully scanned to reveal as much as
possible about them before they are disassembled. The scans will
look at batteries before and after they have been put through
The batteries are not used for main flight functions aboard
the 787, but serve as back-up power sources and are used to
start an auxiliary generator that runs on fuel.
After the two incidents, Boeing added more safeguards,
including a steel enclosure that it says will prevent a battery
from catching fire. The FAA approved the changes last month,
lifting the ban on flights that lasted more than three months
and cost airlines and Boeing millions of dollars.
Boeing says that in both incidents, the existing fail-safe
system worked. There was no loss of life or significant injury
in either incident.