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U.S. officials defend handling of Boeing 787 mishaps

27 Comments
By JOAN LOWY

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How can such a technological advanced plane be flying with such a piece of crappy battery!! I really hope the FAA is there to safeguard the millions of passengers and not the huge interests of the airlines..

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mammamiaJan. 24, 2013 - 01:42PM JST

How can such a technological advanced plane be flying with such a piece of crappy battery!! I really hope the FAA is there to safeguard the millions of passengers and not the huge interests of the airlines..

Malfunctioning, yes, "crappy", not unless you consider laptops to be crappy versions of desktop computers (which are crappy versions of the old workstations) because they have "lower reliability". The specific battery technology in question is used on plenty of toys, laptops, and even your cellphone, and despite hundreds of millions of batteries, you only hear about a handful of battery fires every few years. And when you do, it's almost always the same company involved with all the problems because it was manufacturing error, not an issue with the technology.

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BASROIL

I was making the point of how can we put batteries on a plane!!!! its f....crazy!!

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I was making the point of how can we put batteries on a plane!!!! its f....crazy!!

mammamia

...and what would you suggest as the alternative?!?

gasoline is quite flamable and yet we stupid humans still use it in our cars and every so often one catches fire...

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Nothing wrong with using batteries in airplanes, seems that they used the wrong type, or the ones used have not been tested enough.

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mammamiaJan. 24, 2013 - 03:17PM JST

I was making the point of how can we put batteries on a plane!!!! its f....crazy!!

That's not a point, that's expressing ignorance. Batteries have been used practically forever in airplanes, for varying purposes from communications backup to full control systems backup (as in the 787 and most other modern aircraft). Most jets have large lead-acid or Ni-Cd batteries for the exact same reason that the 787 uses Li-ion batteries. And contrary to rumors spread by those with much to gain, the alternatives are just as dangerous in terms of fire (possibly more so in the case of lead-acid batteries due to the sulfuric acid used), even if the thermal runaway happens at higher temperatures.

And as knowbetter stated, a single gallon of gas has far more energy (and therefore capacity to make fires) than one of those Li-ion batteries. You have tens of thousands of gallons of gas in an airplane, all of it stored in a place that could turn the plane into a fireball during crash landings. I don't hear people complaining about the gas though.

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Cover up and it is still going on.

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basroil: "And contrary to rumors spread by those with much to gain, the alternatives are just as dangerous in terms of fire (possibly more so in the case of lead-acid batteries due to the sulfuric acid used), even if the thermal runaway happens at higher temperatures."

Well, by YOUR logic planes shouldn't be using anything at all then as a power source! :)

Seriously, though, Bas... how many of these other hazardous power sources had more than four incidents in a week? I love how officials say "it's safe" and defend something that is so obviously UNsafe they vow to probe the problems and what they euphemistically call 'mishaps'.

"You have tens of thousands of gallons of gas in an airplane, all of it stored in a place that could turn the plane into a fireball during crash landings. I don't hear people complaining about the gas though."

Again, how many fireballs in one week as opposed to four 787 incidents in one week, Bas? And why do you always throw in off-topic examples on threads? If it's about the dangers of radiation you talk about smoking and lung cancer, if it's about batteries that have been proven defective you talk about the dangers of gasoline. And THEN you say people like mammamia are 'expressing ignorance' or use phrases like, "Then by your logic..." and have to backtrack and sidestep a few minutes later. Why can't you just admit what everyone else already knows -- there are too many problems with these planes for them to be in the air and not be a total danger.

Wakarimasen: "Cover up and it is still going on."

No kidding. You have to love how they defend the 787s they have invested so much in while cutting corners, how they say they are safe, then turn around and talk about investigations into 'mishaps' and what have you. The company and those that defend the 787s are deluded.

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What company actually manufacturers these batteries by the way?

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Yuasa.

I know someone involved in another field of micro-electronics, and he made the point of telling me that he avoids this particular company's batteries because of higher failure rates than other companies. So it may be a question of quality control, but then who is ultimately responsible, Yuasa, or Boeing, who should be aware of any problems within supplying companies.

Maybe the larger problem is outsourcing.

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Yuasa

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smithinjapanJan. 24, 2013 - 06:24PM JST

Tone your comments down. You're attacking me, not my statements. It's childish at best.

planes shouldn't be using anything at all then as a power source!

No, as with anything, there is calculated risk. Nothing is 100% safe, so it's just how safe it is.

how many fireballs in one week as opposed to four 787 incidents in one week

In 1966 alone, they manged to get two in a day, with 188 fatalities. And the 787 experienced only two battery incidents, not the four you are claiming. In fact, only two incidents period.

how many of these other hazardous power sources had more than four incidents in a week?

Jet fuel? Plenty of incidents (most not even reported in major sites), and not just harmless events either. The 787 had a great record before your "week", rather than many accidents stringed out and about, unable to be connected. BECAUSE the two accidents were so close together, it is almost certainly a simple issue that doesn't affect all aircraft, rather only a limited number of them.

anglootakuJan. 24, 2013 - 06:41PM JST

What company actually manufacturers these batteries by the way?

They like to pick biased articles that lack that info, the maker is GS Yuasa (Japanese), which was contracted by Thales SA (French).

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The statement by Boeing officials was hasty and not committed to safety of passengers.He can compete with Airbus only by being transparent.Will there be any compensation to the Airlines which are facing losses to these groundings?

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smithinjapan comes through again with cogent, logical comments. Explicating logical faults in arguments is not an ad hominem fallacy.

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What company actually manufacturers these batteries by the way?

GS Yuasa.

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I dont believe that is quality control. Many things affect a battery. It could be many things. But li ion batteries are a novelty on airplanes.

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This 787 is beautiful but way too many "cooks in the kitchen" if you know what I mean, wink, wink! Boeing should go back to what it does best with out having to rely on all of these other makers, like GS Yuasa etc..

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Not sure why they have to defend their comments. You don't declare an aircraft unsafe because of the failure of one part on one plane - which is what the situation was when they made their initial statement. Once the second battery failed, a trend was established and they treated it like the serious issue it was by grounding the planes.

This is just another attempt by reporters to create controversy where none exists.

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It's not just the batteries though is it? What about the cracked windscreen, failed brakes and the leaking fuel? Or don't they matter?

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787 is safe! We dont know how the batteries are?

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Elbuda MexicanoJan. 24, 2013 - 10:51PM JST

Boeing should go back to what it does best with out having to rely on all of these other makers, like GS Yuasa etc

Yuasa or others would end up making the batteries and charging systems anyway, Boeing has no experience in making batteries, and probably wouldn't want to leave the chargers to their own engineers anyway.

Thunderbird2Jan. 24, 2013 - 11:34PM JST

It's not just the batteries though is it? What about the cracked windscreen, failed brakes and the leaking fuel? Or don't they matter?

Those happen on other planes too. And there were no brake failures actually, just a notification glitch. The brakes were fine. So far it's all limited to single, isolated instances, other than the battery of course.

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Windscreens crack on ALL models of aircraft. Are you going to declare them ALL unsafe? As long as it's just cracking and not a total failure that results in depressurization, then the windscreen did its job.

The fuel spill most likely was a cockpit crew error. A valve was left open allowing fuel to transit from one side of the aircraft to the other. Fuel in one wing flowed over to the tank in the other wing, which was already full. The fuel spilled out of the overfill vent on that wing. Had the valve separating the left wing tank from the right wing tank not been open, the spill wouldn't have happened. That valve is normally open only during refuelling on the ground to allow all tanks to fill from one fuel hose attachment point. Either the flight crew never closed the valve (meaning crew error) or the switch was pressed to close the valve and the valve never closed (meaning the valve needs to be looked at). My money is on the flight crew.

As for the brakes, they're still not sure WHAT that was. There was an error message in the cockpit saying there was a problem with the brakes on the left main gear truck, but at least one source is calling the error message a computer glitch. If so, then it has nothing to do with "failed brakes".

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there is nothing wrong with the situation really, things changed, corners were cut (may or may not be), faults are found, planes are grounded, more checks need to be done, corrective measures are set in place. Serously it is not in the interest of boeing to create unsafe planes, you must be crazy if you can't see that. Its in the interest of everyone that the planes are safe.

I think it is a manufacturing error and not human error that caused the spill, if anything, there shouldn't be a human error that can cause a few hundred gallons of fuel to overflow, the system should be in place to stop and or warn of such thing. And in this case the system failed.

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This is just another attempt by reporters to create controversy where none exists.

I just hope you aren't flying in the air when one of those batteries decides to flare up when fuel is pouring out of the wing.

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For what its worth, Airbus are having their fair share of problems too with the A380 and they've certainly had more than enough problems with the fly by wire system when in its infancy on earlier A300 series aircraft!....Comments here slating Yuasa as a manufacturer are a little unfounded, since as a company they have been producing batteries for an awful long time and these batteries aren't just some straight off the peg battery that you purchase off eBay or your local electronics hobby shop!!...There is more behind this than meets the eye and I can't help but wonder if Boeings industrial problems have spilled over into the quality control area as has happened in the past!...Several years ago British Airways complained of poor quality control (Fasteners missing or fitted the wrong way round, missing parts, etc.) on 747's and 767's in its fleet!

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There is more behind this than meets the eye and I can't help but wonder if Boeings industrial problems have spilled over into the quality control area as has happened in the past!..

I think I read somewhere that these batteries were chosen not just for their being light, but also were ideal for this airplane because they (Boeing) could have them shaped to fit into unusual designs allowing them to fit in not typical locations.

I wonder if the batteries designs are causing problems as well as their overall size. Yes we use them in our little devices (in comparison), and I have to say there are days that my laptop batteries get pretty hot, yet were they fully tested before being put into practical use?

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YubaruJan. 25, 2013 - 06:13AM JST

I just hope you aren't flying in the air when one of those batteries decides to flare up when fuel is pouring out of the wing.

Wouldn't do anything, kerosine isn't flammable in liquid form. Not to mention the batteries are nowhere near the wings or fuel tanks, so any fire would probably kill everyone on the plane (due to fumes, not fire) long before you have to worry about it getting to the fuel.

BopmanJan. 25, 2013 - 08:23AM JST

Comments here slating Yuasa as a manufacturer are a little unfounded, since as a company they have been producing batteries for an awful long time

Yuasa is a manufacturer, and has said they are the only ones to produce the 787 batteries. In fact, Thales made sure battery production was slated for 2007. Perhaps you mean "slander"? In which case there's none of that going on, rather a strong insistence that they had manufacturing errors, which can happen to any company.

these batteries aren't just some straight off the peg battery that you purchase off eBay or your local electronics hobby shop!!

In many ways they are actually worse. Hobby batteries are almost always lithium phosphate batteries, which have a much higher temperature (hot enough that lead-tin solder would cause shorts before the battery temperature does) before thermal runaway compared to the 787's lithium cobalt.

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