A Commercial Aviation Consultancy

Boeing provided a briefing on the 787 battery solution, which includes a new charger for the revised battery with additional spacing and shielding, and the new case and venting system that has been nicknamed the “fireplace and chimney” by some industry observers.

The slides from Boeing’s presentation can be found here.

Boeing indicated with certainty that in neither event was there a fire in the battery, nor a thermal runaway, but instead cell venting, a safety mechanism.  In this case, such cell venting spread to other cells.  They indicate that the only mechanism that could lead to thermal runaway is overcharging, and that data from the flight data recorded indicated that an overcharge situation did not occur.  Therefore, a thermal runaway could not have occurred, despite both the NTSB and JTSB indicating that it had.  Mike Sinnett from Boeing indicated that it was a matter of perspective.  Reminds me of “newspeak” as it remains a fact that a “cell venting” runaway did occur, and when one cell vented, it caused others to vent as well to the point that the containment case was damaged, hot flammable electrolyte leaked into the aircraft, and the nice clean batteries ended up a charred mess that no longer worked.

Clearly, something created significant heat, as illustrated by the burnt battery and difficulty for firefighters at Logan had in putting out what they described as a fire, which did spread from one cell to other cells and engulf the whole battery.  Is that “cellular venting runaway” rather than “thermal runaway?”  Who cares if an airplane can still catch fire over an ocean?

The re-design of the battery system improves the battery, the charging system, the containment vessel, and the venting system, and even condensation removal, and provide enough protection to bring the airplane to a safe landing at an airplane level.  For an airplane with 330 minute ETOPS capability, and emergency landing is often not very easy.  They are betting that a robust solution set, but one that does not include fire suppression, will be sufficient to eliminate further risk.  Let’s hope they are right – but some of us remain unconvinced.

© 2013, Ernest S. Arvai. All rights reserved.

5 Responses to Boeing reveals battery solution in webinar from Tokyo

  • Boeing has got to be kidding, no fire. Just take a look at the batteries, that melted blackened destroyed battery look is real, its actually burnt. I know Boeing must be under pressure to get these planes back in the air but to blatantly lie is disgraceful. The 787 is a terrible mess, its has had everything go wrong with it so I will never go on one as long as I live, trust me one of these 787 will fall from the skies soon leading to a terrible tragedy and Boeing will still deny that there is anything wrong with this plane.

    Boeing that we all trusted and admired is gone, its now been replaced by Spin Doctors.

    • I do not go so far to say I will never fly with a 787 but I will accept a higher fare to fly another plane for at least a year. What Boeing offers is a patch at best and not a solution. Since I am no electrical engineer I have a question:

      What happens to the electrical system of the 787 if both batteries in stop working (however you call the event)? Will the electrical system still work relyably?

      • The batteries are a back-up system and used to start the APU for ground power, and as long as the engine generators remain working (and there are six generators – four primary and two backup) the airplane should be fine.

  • A lot of comments but none with inside knowledge of what Boeing is designing and testing for a new generation airliner. The battery issue is a problem, but it is being addressed and will be tested many times over. With 50 of the aircraft up until the first of the year in service, the airlines and flying public were pleased with the 787.
    I could be wrong,but I believe the batteries are for starting the APU and if so, its use is limited to its time on the ground.
    Why does the public always go for the worst scenario, it must be the press sensationalizing a story on a slow news day. No one was injured and considering all the new designs incorporated in this plane, it is an amazing airliner. I look forward to flying on one in the future when they enter service with my carrier of choice.
    All modern airliners have back up systems,redundancy to deal with systems outage or failures, the 787 is no different.
    Now we all wait to see the results of the testing and then accurate statements can be made.

  • I must at least add that the engine also has a “containment” scenario as they do tend to explode occcasionally when there is some defect. And quite violently. We just “contain” the shrapnel. Think about it.

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