The aerospace industry has been a hotbed of activity this year—and we’re only two months into 2013. The hottest news (no pun intended) has been and continues to be related to the grounding of the entire fleet of Boeing Dreamliner 787 commercial airliners.
Just last month, the Transport Ministry within the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) closed its investigation of Kyoto, Japan-based battery manufacturer GS Yuasa. U.S. safety officials, including those in the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), weren’t as confident in the safety of the batteries, however. In fact, at the same time that Japan’s Transport Ministry was turning its attentions to another avionics manufacturer, the NTSB requested Boeing’s records related to lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery use on its 787 aircraft.
Only a week later, the NTSB revealed that it had identified the origin of the January 7 Japan Airlines (JAL) Boeing 787 battery fire at Boston Logon Airport. NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman, in a press conference on February 6, announced the agency’s findings, which follow.
After an exhaustive examination of the JAL lithium-ion battery, investigators determined that the majority of evidence from the flight data recorder and both thermal and mechanical damage pointed to an initiating event in a single cell. That cell showed multiple signs of short circuiting, leading to a thermal runaway condition, which then cascaded to other cells. Charred battery components indicated that the temperature inside the battery case exceeded 500 degrees Fahrenheit.