Boeing on 787 battery fix: This eliminates fire risk

TOKYO, Japan (WCIV) - Boeing executives provided details on a proposed permanent solution to the 787 Dreamliner battery issue two days after getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.The new plan is based on three preventative measures: a way to prevent the battery issue from ever triggering, a way to prevent the event from spreading, and a way to prevent a greater impact to the rest of the aircraft.{}"Because we did not find the single root cause, we looked at everything that could impact a battery and set a broad set of solutions,"{}Mike Sinnett, the Vice President and Chief Project Engineer on the 787 project.As a result, Boeing engineers enhanced the battery cell and the build process it undergoes, enhanced the testing procedures for the cells and batteries used on the 787, added further limits on the voltage range of the battery, added improvements to the design of the charger and battery, and included a battery enclosure.{}"The only way battery can harm the airplane is when it's overcharged," said Sinnett.Sinnett said engineers spent 200,000 hours researching the battery issues and found 80 possible problems. After the problems were isolated, they were categorized and a solution was developed for each type of problem, he said.READ: Boeing's battery fix release (PDF)The new charger reduces the maximum charging levels on the battery as well as softens the charging sequence, steps that were designed to reduce stress in the cell by decreasing workload.{}The new battery enclosure is designed to eliminate the potential for fire and vent electrolyte discharge outside of the aircraft. One of the issues with the current system was that the smoke was not being discharged outside the plane, which led to people in the cabin complaining of the smell.{}The new system will immediately send all vapors and odors outside of the plane on a dedicated vent line.The company announced plans to enclose the 787 jet's lithium-ion batteries in stainless steel cases and provide the power pack with extra insulation, spacers and heat-resistant sleeving to prevent overheating.Now that Boeing has developed a response, the FAA will look into the new design as well as develop testing and analysis.{}"It's hard to say when we will resume flights," said Ray Connor, Boeing's president and CEO.Sinnett said 75 percent of the test plans have been approved and 25 percent are under way. "If we miss the timeline, it will be by a little, not by a lot," he said.Both Conner and Sinnett said the process could take a few weeks, but they were unsure because the testing process was just beginning. As a result, they could not anticipate delays.{}The 787 uses a lithium ion battery because it saves on space and weight, a commodity in the new aircraft and something that sets it apart from its predecessors and planes built by other manufacturers.Sinnett said that Boeing would move forward with the batteries -- and the battery manufacturer -- because of the advantages it offers.The announcement was made in Japan, Sinnett said, because half of the 787 fleet is there and 35 percent of the planes are being built there through airline partners. The company felt Japan made the most sense, Sinnett said.

Both men were confident the 787 would take flight again, assuring reporters that the plane would be safe.

"My answer is simple: absolutely," Conner said. "I would gladly have my family -- my wife and my children -- flying this airplane."