More containment is Boeing's latest 787 plan

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 7:06 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 1 at 7:21 AM

SEATTLE -- Inside the rear electrical bay aboard a Japan Air Lines 787 that caught fire in Boston on January 7, National Transportation Safety Board investigators found damage in a 20-inch radius lithium ion battery fire.

Much of the damage was from smoke. 

Now, Boeing has a plan to build another containment around the battery, then vent any smoke or debris directly overboard and not into the cargo bay. 

“It’s certainly something where all of us pilots would say we don’t want a fire on an airplane.”  Says air safety analyst John Nance.  “And I think to the extent that they can demonstrate this will work, that’s well within the original idea of certification.”  
  
The FAA’s emergency airworthiness directive from January 16, says it grounded the jets because of concerns over what the batteries might do to nearby equipment. 

The directive states, “We are issuing this AD to prevent damage to critical systems and structures, and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment.”

But the solution leaves Boeing a room for compliance. 

“Before further flight, modify the battery system, or take other actions, in accordance with a method approved by the Manager, Seattle Aircraft Certification Office,” the FAA said in the directive.

Another industry expert paying close attention to Boeing’s battery issue and speaking on background to KING 5 said it’s likely Boeing’s fix won’t stop with containment, and will probably include other fixes to the battery and related electrical systems that charge and monitor the battery.  The containment idea could be the ultimate backup, to renew confidence in the jet.

Today, the first airline stepped forward addressing the issue of what all this work is going to cost.  All Nippon Airways, the 787’s launch customer and the airline with the most Dreamliners, 17 total, said it’s already lost $15.4 million because of 459 cancelled flights. 

Chief Financial Officer Kiyoshi Tonomoto said until today the airline was focused on investigating the cause of a smoking battery aboard one of its own 787s a week after the Boston incident.

“But we will be negotiating with Boeing,” Tonomoto told reporters in Tokyo.

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