Thursday, May 28, 2015Thursday, May 28, 2015

Boeing puts 787 battery to tough tests it once avoided

Published on Mar 19, 2013 5:46 AM

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - To get its 787 Dreamliner flying again, Boeing Co is testing the plane's volatile battery system to a rigorous standard that the company itself helped develop - but that it never used on the jet.

Boeing's decision has thrust an arcane standard known as Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) to the centre of the debate over whether Boeing and the United States (US) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were rigorous enough when they originally set standards for the 787 battery system in October 2007. The debate could have broad implications for the future use of lithium-ion batteries on aircraft.

A committee co-chaired by Boeing published safety guidelines in March 2008 for using lithium-ion batteries on aircraft to minimise the risk of fire. But because they arrived five months after the FAA had approved a set of special conditions for the fire safety of the Dreamliner battery system, Boeing did not have to meet the more stringent guidelines. The FAA never required it, and Boeing did not choose to use them.

Last week, Boeing decided to shift to the tougher RTCA standard for a revamped 787 battery system.

Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!