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Airbus to use NiCd batteries in forthcoming A350

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Following last week's decision by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that a lithium ion battery cell short circuit caused the fire in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Boston's Logan airport, Airbus has announced that it will retain nickel cadmium batteries in the forthcoming A350.

The NTSB's investigation concluded that evidence from the flight data recorder, combined with thermal and mechanical damage, pointed to multiple short circuits in one cell, resulting in thermal runaway. The temperature inside the battery case was believed to have exceeded 260°C.

Although Boeing anticipated particular battery failure modes when certifying the 787, it apparently did not consider cell to cell propagation or fire, both factors in the Boston event.

Airbus says the flight test programme for the A350 will continue as planned using what it describes as 'qualified Li ion main batteries' developed in association with Saft. However, Airbus describes the decision to use NiCd batteries for production aircraft as a 'plan B', saying this is the 'most appropriate' way forward. It will now do more work on the use of lithium ion batteries in aerospace operations.

Graham Pitcher

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