Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Boeing 787 Battery Fire: Both ANA and JAL Had Replaced Batteries Last Year, on Multiple Occasions


ANA replaced 10 batteries, JAL replaced on several occasions.

ANA also says the problem started in May last year. ANA's first 787 Dreamliner (it was actually the world's first commercial flight) flew in October 2011.

From Reuters (1/30/2013; emphasis is mine):

Japanese airlines had 787 battery issues before recent incidents

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's two biggest airlines replaced lithium-ion batteries on their Boeing Co (BA) 787 Dreamliners in the months before separate incidents led to the technologically advanced aircraft being grounded worldwide due to battery problems.

Comments from both All Nippon Airways <9202.T>, the new Boeing jetliner's biggest customer to date, and Japan Airlines Co Ltd <9201.T> point to reliability issues with the batteries long before a battery caught fire on a JAL 787 at Boston's airport and a second battery was badly charred and melted on an ANA domestic flight that was forced into an emergency landing.

ANA said it changed 10 batteries on its 787s last year, but did not inform accident investigators in the United States because the incidents, including five batteries that had unusually low charges, did not compromise the plane's safety, spokesman Ryosei Nomura said on Wednesday.

JAL also replaced batteries on the 787 "on a few occasions", said spokeswoman Sze Hunn Yap, declining to be more specific on when units were replaced or whether these were reported to authorities.

ANA did, however, inform Boeing of the faults that began in May, and returned the batteries to their manufacturer, GS Yuasa Corp <6674.T>. A spokesman for the battery maker declined to comment on Wednesday. Shares of the company fell 1.2 percent.

Boeing, in a statement, said battery replacements are not unusual for airplanes.

"We have not seen 787 battery replacements occurring as a result of safety concerns," the company said.

An NTSB spokesman said the board was aware of the reports of the prior battery problems and would review the data to see if it was relevant to the broader 787 probe.

LITTLE HEADWAY

Under aviation inspection rules, airlines are required to perform detailed battery inspections once every two years.

Officials are carrying out detailed tests on the batteries, chargers and monitoring units in Japan and the United States, but have so far made little headway in finding out what caused the battery failures.

Japan's transport ministry said the manufacturing process at the company which makes the 787 battery's monitoring unit did not appear to be linked to the problem on the ANA Dreamliner that made the emergency landing.

The NTSB said on Tuesday it was carrying out a microscopic investigation of the JAL 787 battery. Neither it nor the Japan Transport Safety Board has been able to say when they are likely to complete their work.

The global fleet of 50 Dreamliners - 17 of which are operated by ANA - remain grounded, increasing the likely financial impact to Boeing, which is still producing the aircraft but has stopped delivering them, and the airlines that fly the Dreamliner.

Boeing said on Wednesday that its 2013 financial forecast assumes no significant impact from the grounding. Boeing shares rose slightly in early trading and are down just 0.5 percent since the 787 was grounded.

ANA posts its earnings on Thursday. ANA shares rose 0.56 percent on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly, Dominic Lau, James Topham, Alwyn Scott and Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

8 comments:

Shadowfax said...

I decided a few years ago never to fly again on commercial aircraft.(reminds me too much of the police states we live in).
These new planes are a different story,made as light as possible to save fuel(money)Carbon fiber is fine for ultralight racing boats but I won't get in a plane made of it.Give me aluminum any day.
The carbon fiber structure can take on moisture which then freezes at high altitudes.The airlines are supposed to inspect the carbon fiber on a regular basis to check for delamination!!!and voids.But we know that won't be enough.
The 1979 Fastnet race round Britain had numerous yachts that snapped off their carbon fiber rudder shafts,the heavier stainless steel posts bent but did not break.
The use of more batteries is a replacement for the onboard generators that used outside air to power them,but created more drag(money again).So this is all about saving a few bucks,it is not the safest way to go.The dreamliner already had cracks in the wing to hull joint and the just slapped a bit more carbon and epoxy on them.
I predict in a few years one will pop apart in the air.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

I was surprised to learn that over 30% of the plane is made by Japanese companies.

Scott said...

Maybe I'm over thinking this but what if ANA and JAL were trying to keep the battery issue quiet because Yuasa is a fellow Japanese company and if they were to be found to be not quite ready for the task that was given to them, it would mean one less exclusive industrial export for Japan. I guess time will tell.

TechDud said...

I'd hate to think of how many batteries could have been afflicted should a lesser manufacturer have been involved.

"Under aviation inspection rules, airlines are required to perform detailed battery inspections once every two years."
Clearly these inspection rules are woefully inadequate for these newer technology batteries.

"Officials are carrying out detailed tests on the batteries, chargers and monitoring units in Japan and the United States, but have so far made little headway in finding out what caused the battery failures."
"A little bird" tells me that they won't pinpoint this on the ground.
They do still seem mum about the whole metal-whiskering phenomenon; curious.

Ageless Yankee said...

RE airline battery replacements. If it is the APU battery being replaced, then the high replacement rate is a good indicator of something amiss within the APU starting and charging system. If it's the backup battery for the avionics, then the high replacement rate is understandable.

The 787 has automatic provisions for switching critical systems (e.g. earth reference system used for navigation) onto the backup battery when AC power is interrupted. If the crew doesn't notice this when powering down the airplane, the backup battery will supply electrons until it's flat. Once the battery is flat, it's dead.

Ageless Yankee said...

Shadowfax -

Re: "The dreamliner already had cracks in the wing to hull joint and the just slapped a bit more carbon and epoxy on them. I predict in a few years one will pop apart in the air."

You have no idea what you're talking about. The wing root repairs were very extensive and contributed significantly to the 787's late delivery. You may recall that these modifications were rolled into a new joint design and implemented prior to delivery. Do you really think that the FAA would allow a band-aid fix.

Whatever issues The Boeing Company may have, taking shortcuts in structural repairs of new airplanes isn't one of them.

You sound like a troll for Airbus, but I accept that you simply may be an idiot.

TechDud said...

Ageless Yankee quote:
"If it's the backup battery for the avionics, then the high replacement rate is understandable."

Why is that?
Do they lose power that often, and for any extended duration? (Of course you mentioned that this could happen post-flight, i'm still curious about this, though).

"If the crew doesn't notice this when powering down the airplane, the backup battery will supply electrons until it's flat."
Sacrificing a battery of cells rather than possibly sacrificing the plane seems wise. However; one would think that there would (or should) be a warning to prevent this whilst on the ground.

Have you ever watched the Discovery Channel show "Mayday!", Ageless Yankee?

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