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Transport ministry to investigate Boeing 787 battery maker

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A spokesperson for Kyoto-based GS Yuasa Corp, which makes batteries for the Dreamliner, declined to comment

Interesting. The press in Japan was jumping all over Boeing, an American company, and questioning if the Dreamliner was un-safe and too risky because of all the new technology. But now that the potential problem could be traced back to a Japanese firm it will be interesting to see if this is as newsworthy. I think I already know the answer.

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To HereForNow:

FUNNY how that works; isn't it ?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Still a lot of variables in the loop, be interesting to see where the problem officially is or whether it's a combination . It will put a lot of engineers to rest once it's more difinitive. Regardless of where this ends up I'm still interested as to why the fuel spills have happened, surely that's not connected to the battery/wiring/system issues. Not to mention the cracked ( like how they say cracked) windshield problem.

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Crazed: From some of the things I've read cracked windshields occasionally happen on current airplanes and is not uncommon. Could occur on windshields in service for long periods or on a fairly new one. Fuel leaks are more than likely caused by human error. Not always, but in most cases.

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Paul, have you seen the picture of the windshield ?? Cracked was putting it lightly , looked like someone through a large rock at it.

Fuel problem they have been looking at the black boxes on these now, human error would have turned up by now don't you think ??

I've seen pictures of the windshields cracked before , this one was pretty bad hopefully glass company and Boeing can figure out a better configuration for that issue.

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CrazedinjapanJan. 22, 2013 - 11:10AM JST

Paul, have you seen the picture of the windshield ?? Cracked was putting it lightly , looked like someone through a large rock at it.

Bird or hail more likely, happens to absolutely anything that flies, especially during take-off and landing. And unless it goes through all the layers (it didn't), it's only a crack.

Fuel problem they have been looking at the black boxes on these now, human error would have turned up by now don't you think ??

No, human error is what they use when the problem can be definitively tracked down to be something other than hardware failure (or bird/hail/lightning strike). It's usually the last thing blamed even if it's the most likely. Fuel leaks are almost always human error, especially if before a flight.

I've seen pictures of the windshields cracked before , this one was pretty bad hopefully glass company and Boeing can figure out a better configuration for that issue.

I've seen pictures too, and compared to what happens a hundred times a year, this is a joke of a crack.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

From the much better article in the tech section:

There are so many redundancies and safeguards in aviation that when an accident or mishap occurs it almost always is the result of a chain of events rather than a single failure, Goglia said.

The batteries in two incidents “had a thermal overrun because they short-circuited,” he said. “The question is whether it was a manufacturing flaw in the battery or whether it was induced by battery charging.”

Battery shorts are almost always manufacturing errors, and given only a few batteries actually blew, they were probably replacement packs purchased recently.

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Japan should reduce its dependency from US and buy Airbus planes.!

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Frenchy92Jan. 22, 2013 - 03:09PM JST

Japan should reduce its dependency from US and buy Airbus planes.!

Only the frech would benefit. The main reason for Japan's reliance on Boeing is that Japanese companies make over half of the contracted parts, while they make nearly none for Airbus (EU main contracts, because it's owned in large part by France and Germany, though some subcrontracts are held by Japanese companies). Since Japan won't buy without a good chunk made or assembled in Japan, it wouldn't really matter who designs the plane because parts will be from Japan anyway, and very likely include the same batteries in question.

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It won't be the batteries. I am saying this now and please remind me if I'm wrong but you won't have to because batteries don't just short circuit by themselves unless overcharged, discharged at a higher than spec'd rate or the load shorts out. These batteries caught fire and/or leaked because failsafes FAILED. That for starters is one problem and next will be the culprit causing the problem. I am willing to bet that 99% of you commenting here and voting down have never charged any type of battery using a completely manual settings charger. You all use NiMH auto chargers that you just plug into the wall and then bitch about how long it takes your Eneloops to fully charge not knowing that speed charging them actually shortens their lives because they get so hot while charging that they cook away but they don't leak or catch fire. Lead Acid batteries are pretty much the same too... slow and steady for longer life. LiION batteries can take a faster, higher rate of charge but heat and life span will also play into factor. It's not the batteries. It's an outside force that's causing the problem.

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I have my eye on the aluminum wire on this plane. It is a well known fact that aluminum wire is tricky to employ especially where there are extremes in temperature and vibration. There is a reason it was outlawed in building wiring systems. Also, do we fully understand how current flows in/on aluminum wire. I've been an electrician for over 40 years. We always learned that DC travels inside the copper wire and and AC travels on the outside surface. This is known as the "skin effect". Airplanes usually employ 400 Hz AC as well as DC. 28 volts DC used to be the standard but I'm betting all these old rules have been bent and twisted for "cutting edge" advantage. So are these aluminum wire bundles a mixed bag? With DC circuits and AC circuits alongside each other? I know how inductive coupling of AC circuits works on copper lines but am not knowledgeable about how that works on aluminum. These systems were no doubt tested to great length individually without fail. But how do they all get along in a big crowd?? If it turns out to be inductive coupling then this will be a costly fix for sure.

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KnowBetterJan. 22, 2013 - 07:38PM JST

It won't be the batteries. I am saying this now and please remind me if I'm wrong

You're next statement is going to be dead wrong!

but you won't have to because batteries don't just short circuit by themselves unless overcharged, discharged at a higher than spec'd rate or the load shorts out.

They can and do, mainly due to design flaws or manufacturing errors. One of the most common issues is small bits of metal getting mixed in with the electrolyte during production, and after a few charges the particles align themselves into a conductive trace. You can do everything else right and still have issues if the manufacturing has dirty electrolyte.

These batteries caught fire and/or leaked because failsafes FAILED.

Yes, and the battery itself has two, one in every cell of the battery (there's 8 cells for a 29.6 nominal voltage and 33.6 max voltage), and one in every battery (which also manages individual cell voltages to prevent balancing issues).

I am willing to bet that 99% of you commenting here and voting down have never charged any type of battery using a completely manual settings charger.

I can tell you 99% of batteries have no need for that. Most high end chargers, and even cellphones (which also use Lipo) can not only charge but condition batteries just fine. Anyone that's used a high end camera has seen the chargers, and they are simple but incredibly effective. Using manual chargers for most lithium ion batteries will just cause more problems than they could ever solve.

You all use NiMH auto chargers that you just plug into the wall and then bitch about how long it takes your Eneloops to fully charge not knowing that speed charging them actually shortens their lives because they get so hot while charging that they cook away but they don't leak or catch fire.

The temperatures of consumer chargers gets nowhere near enough for problems, especially in commercial "fast chargers". Most consumer batteries never get used long enough for temperature to be a problem in the consumer market even with the fancy chargers.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The fuel spill was caused because a fuel transfer valve was open, allowing fuel from one side of the plane to flow into the other side of the plane and causing the fuel to discharge out the overfill vent. This happened on a taxiway, so I'm guessing the plane had just made a taxiway turn and centripital force moved more fuel into the already-full wing tank. Whether the valve was left open on accident by the flight crew or opened on its own is what needs to be examined. Odds are that a flight crew member didn't close the valve after refueling was completed. We'll see.

Examining the manufacturing process of the batteries is an obvious move at this point. Once the black box revealed there were no abnormal surges that could have damaged the battery then next thing you look at is the construction of the batteries themselves. Thales SA contracted GS Yuasa to make the batteries, but I seriously doubt they gave GS Yuasa detailed manufacturing instructions. More than likely they simply gave operational specifications with tolerances in capacity, size, and weight, and let GS Yuasa decide how to meet those specifications. So the spotlight is now on GS Yuasa. Their spokesman is wise to remain silent even as the scrutiny turns towards their company. Wait until a cause is determined, THEN comment.

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The last thing we need in figuring out what’s wrong with the Boeing 787 is a turf war between Japan's Transport Ministry and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Let’s get on the ball.

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The last thing we need in figuring out what’s wrong with the Boeing 787 is a turf war between Japan's Transport Ministry and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Let’s get on the ball.

Probably won't be a turf war. There's now two FAA inspectors and a Transport Ministry inspector at GS Yuasa. I'm sure they're working together on this. I'm surprised a Thales SA and a Boeing rep aren't there with them.

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@herefornow

"But now that the potential problem could be traced back to a Japanese firm"

Again, it doesn't matter where any part was produced. Boeing is responsible for ANY and ALL issues that happen with any Boeing airplane.

Parts suppliers can't do testing of the whole airplane, they only make the parts based on specification from Boeing.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Hide SuzukiJan. 23, 2013 - 09:11AM JST

Again, it doesn't matter where any part was produced. Boeing is responsible for ANY and ALL issues that happen with any Boeing airplane.

If the batteries are replacement cells purchased directly from the supplier (which is the likely case), Boeing has nothing to do with it because the batteries were not up to specification and they never tested it. It's like using cheap batteries in your expensive camera because they fit. You won't see anyone say your warranty is valid simply because the batteries fit.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

@basroil

I see what you are saying. Do you know if the battery has been replaced ? Or are you just saying it as a possibility ? But we are talking about $200M airplane,

I doubt anyone would replace a battery without reading their manual just to save a few bucks. Besides, these are specific batteries, it's not like you can go to Walmart and buy one :)

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Hide SuzukiJan. 23, 2013 - 03:22PM JST

I see what you are saying. Do you know if the battery has been replaced ? Or are you just saying it as a possibility ?

Can't be certain about that, but considering the age of the first plane and second one the chances of the batteries being original but frying at the same time is very slim. The simplest and most logical answer is that they were replaced, but we won't know for a while now.

I doubt anyone would replace a battery without reading their manual just to save a few bucks. Besides, these are specific batteries, it's not like you can go to Walmart and buy one

No, but you can call up Yuasa and say you want fresh batteries for your planes. Only Yuasa makes them, but with other parts you can usually just call up the parts manufacturer for the components rather than going to the company that used them to build whatever it is you are using. Very likely Yuasa is allowed to directly supply replacement parts if necessary, though that won't be happening any more if it was the case.

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@basroil

That's a lot of ifs and I have not heard anything like that in any of the article I read. If it was the case, we would have heard about it by now.

Besides, neither JAL nor ANA never had any similar issue with any other airplane

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