Single cell in lithium-ion battery started blaze: NTSB report

Added by on February 7, 2013

A photo from the NTSB investigation indicates the location of the lithium-ion battery that started a fire on a jet parked at Boston's Logan Airport on January 7 2013

A photo from the NTSB investigation points out the location of the lithium-ion battery that started a fire on a jet that was parked at Boston’s Logan Airport on January 7 2013

The US NTSB announced today that it has isolated the source of a battery fire that occurred on a Japan Airlines 787-800 jet on January 7 2013.

The NTSB reported that the initiating event occurred in the sixth cell of an eight cell lithium-ion battery located in a mechanical section, near the flight deck, of all 787-800 aircraft. The fire occurred when the Japan Airlines plane was parked at the Boston Logan International Airport.

“The investigation is important because it’s directly related to a number of similar incidents involving the 787-800,” said a researcher.

The incident was followed by a similar event on January 16 when the crew on board a Japan Airlines 787-800 carrying 129 passengers and 8 crew received a warning of a faulty battery, followed by smoke just 14 minutes after it took off from Takamatsu Airport.

Japan Airlines voluntarily grounded their fleet of 787-800 aircraft on January 16. The US FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive that grounded the world’s fleet of 787-800 as they launched an investigation.

The comprehensive investigation included information from the flight data recorders, and the battery’s both thermal and mechanical damage. It is believed a short circuit in the 6th cell of the 8 cell battery initiated a thermal runaway condition, where overheating originating in one cell spreads to surrounding cells within the battery.

The investigation found that the temperature within battery’s enclosure reached over 260 Celsius (500 Fahrenheit).

The NTSB says its next areas of consideration during its investigation include cell charging, manufacturing issues, problems with the certification process, and investigate possible battery design issues. They also plan to conduct tests on batteries that were replaced at around the time of the incidents.

The NTSB says they plan to provide an interim factual report within 30 days.

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that are available in a broad range of sizes and are particularly popular in devices like smart phones and other portable devices. Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight and provide more power compared to conventional batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have the potential to catch fire when they overheat and in a variety of other conditions. Lithium-ion batteries

The Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner is Boeing’s latest jet airliner that features high fuel efficiency, and mostly electrical flight systems. As of November 2012, Boeing reportedly had 844 orders from 54 global clients that include Quantas, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, United Airlines, and Air Canada.