18 February 2013

Battery fire causes change of plan for aircraft manufacturers

When a lithium ion battery in a Boeing Dreamliner caught fire a couple of weeks ago, the incident was considered significant enough to warrant the grounding of all such planes.

While lithium ion (Li-ion) battery fires aren't new, they can be accompanied by explosion - not a combination you want on an aircraft.

Speculation after the event focused on the battery charging circuits, but the investigation concluded the fire was caused by a short circuit, in turn the result of a manufacturing fault.
Interestingly, neither Boeing nor the certification authorities saw Li-ion battery fire as a matter of concern.

Now, Airbus has said it's implementing 'plan B' for the forthcoming A350 - replacing the planned Li-ion batteries with what it says are 'more appropriate' NiCd versions.

Li-ion batteries are smaller than their NiCd equivalents and have a higher capacity. While weight and space are important issues, safety remains critical and Airbus admits as much when it says that it will now do 'more work' in assessing Li ion battery suitability.

Author
Graham Pitcher

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