Report: FAA too reliant on Boeing for battery test

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm •  Published: May 22, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — The government failed to properly test the Boeing 787's lithium-ion batteries and relied too much on Boeing for technical expertise, a new report says.

The National Transportation Safety Board Thursday criticized the process used by the Federal Aviation Administration to certify the new jet in 2007. It also recommended that the FAA needed to look outside the aviation industry for technical advice.

The report directly conflicts with the FAA's own internal study released in March, which said the agency had "effective processes in place to identify and correct issues that emerged before and after certification."

The 787 — also known as the Dreamliner — is the first commercial jet to rely on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to power key systems. The batteries are lighter, letting airlines save fuel. However, a January 2013 fire aboard a 787 parked at a gate in Boston broke out when one of a battery cell experienced an uncontrollable increase in temperature and pressure, known as a thermal runaway. Nobody was injured, but that fire — and a subsequent smoke condition on a separate plane nine days later — led to a worldwide grounding of the Dreamliner fleet.

Boeing subsequently redesigned the ventilation system around the batteries and the planes resumed flying. There are now 140 Dreamliners operating around the world. Another 891 have been ordered by airlines.

In its report Thursday, the safety board says the problems go back to September 2004, when Boeing first told aviation regulators of its plans to use lithium-ion batteries on the 787. The FAA was forced to create the first-ever requirements for use of lithium-ion batteries on commercial jets.

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