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Lithium Batteries Are Not Necessarily Unsafe, Safety Board Says –

WASHINGTON (AP) — The lithium-ion batteries used to power the electrical systems on Boeing’s 787 are not necessarily unsafe, the nation’s top safety investigator said Wednesday, but manufacturers need to build in reliable safeguards.
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The chairwoman of theNational Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman, said she did not want to ”categorically” rule out the use of lithium-ion batteries to power aircraft systems.

Then, referring to the battery fire last month on a Japan Airlines 787 parked at Logan Airport in Boston, Ms. Hersman said, ”Obviously what we saw in the 787 battery fire in Boston shows us there were some risks that were not mitigated, that were not addressed.” The fire was “not what we would have expected to see in a brand-new battery in a brand-new airplane,” she said.

The board is still weeks away from determining the cause of the Jan. 7 battery fire, Ms. Hersman added.

The 787 is the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium-ion batteries. Aircraft makers see the batteries, which are lighter and can store more energy than other types of batteries of an equivalent size, as an important way to save on fuel costs. The Airbus A350, expected to be ready next year, will also make extensive use of lithium-ion batteries. But lithium batteries are more likely to short-circuit and start a fire than other batteries if they are damaged, if there is a manufacturing flaw or if they are exposed to excessive heat.

Investigators are also looking into the special conditions the Federal Aviation Administration imposed on Boeing in 2007 to use the lithium-ion batteries, she said.



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