Boeing's Battery Problems Lead to Titanium Box (Short-Term) Solutions

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As time goes by, the pain for Boeing only gets worse as all 50 Dreamliner 787s remain grounded around the world.

The grounding is said to be costing Boeing $50 million a week, so the incentive to find a quick fix must be almost irresistible. According to wired.com, Boeing is expected to propose a short-term fix for the battery problem as early as this week, said to focus on a heavy-duty containment box to replace the relatively simple box now used to hold the lithium-ion cells in each of two electrical bays in the airplane.

The box is expected to be constructed out of titanium and have a vent to the outside in the case of smoke and particulate emissions, i.e. if it catches fire while in flight.

No mention is made at this stage what would power the aircraft if its batteries became inoperative in the event of a “contained” fire. The 787 is the most wired commercial aircraft in history, supplanting traditional hydraulic controls with electrical.

Nor has much mention been made of the rationale that says it’s ok to propose a solution where an onboard fire is a tolerable situation, even if it is contained within a strong box. Surely the FAA would never allow an airline to design a system like that on a new build, so why would it be acceptable as a “short-term” (read: months) measure simply for commercial expediency?

So far the airline has refrained from adopting the use of nickel cadmium as Airbus has decided to do in the new A350 XWB due to enter service next year. Airbus had been developing lithium ion batteries with a French battery maker, but has switched back to NiCd, a decision probably not unassociated with Boeing’s problems.

Continued in Part Two.

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