The NTSB announced on January 20th that the battery on the JAL 787 in Boston did not exceed the 32 volts it was designed to handle. This statement seems to indicate that the NTSB does not consider the lithium-ion battery the culprit in the JAL fire and is looking at other components of the battery system including the charger. The JTSB investigators have suggested that the issue on the ANA 787 was due to the battery being over-charged.
Here's the text of the NTSB's latest statement:
NTSB Provides Third Investigative Update on Boeing 787 Battery Fire in BostonThis may indicated that the battery system on the 787 may suffer from not one but two different issues and may pose a difficult challenge for Boeing to get the airplanes flying again.
WASHINGTON - The National Transportation Safety Board today released a third update on its investigation into the Jan. 7 fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 at Logan International Airport in Boston.
The lithium-ion battery that powered the auxiliary power unit has been examined in the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington. The battery was x-rayed and CT scans were generated of the assembled battery. The investigative team has disassembled the APU battery into its eight individual cells for detailed examination and documentation. Three of the cells were selected for more detailed radiographic examination to view the interior of the cells prior to their disassembly. These cells are in the process now of being disassembled and the cell's internal components are being examined and documented.
Investigators have also examined several other components removed from the airplane, including wire bundles and battery management circuit boards. The team has developed test plans for the various components removed from the aircraft, including the battery management unit (for the APU battery), the APU controller, the battery charger and the start power unit. On Tuesday, the group will convene in Arizona to test and examine the battery charger and download nonvolatile memory from the APU controller. Several other components have been sent for download or examination to Boeing's facility in Seattle and manufacturer's facilities in Japan.
Finally, examination of the flight recorder data from the JAL B-787 airplane indicate that the APU battery did not exceed its designed voltage of 32 volts.
In accordance with international investigative treaties, the Japan Transport Safety Board and French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile have appointed accredited representatives to this investigation. Similarly, the NTSB has assigned an accredited representative to assist with the JTSB's investigation of the Jan. 15 battery incident involving an All Nippon Airways B-787. Both investigations remain ongoing.
Further investigative updates on the JAL B-787 incident will be issued as events warrant. To be alerted to any updates or developments, please follow the NTSB on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ntsb.
Boeing is pushing to get the airplanes back in the sky and have indicated to customers that they have a plan in work to present to the FAA. Given that the investigation in Japan and the US have not concluded the root cause of either incident nor has the FAA signed off on any corrective measures, one has to deduce that the Boeing plan is more of a temporary preventative measure which would entail frequent checks of the battery system rather than any permanent fix or redesign of the battery system.
Despite all the publicity surrounding the battery issue, Boeing's 787 customers see no changes in the delivery plans despite Boeing's hold on deliveries. Norwegian says they still expect their first 787 to be delivered in April (on lease from ILFC) according to information provided to them by Boeing. Meanwhile Boeing continues 787 production with another 787 entering final assembly on January 23. The Everett and Charleston flightlines will be filling up quickly and Boeing maybe hard-pressed to clear that backlog when they have the green light to fly the 787 again but it will all depend on what the NTSB and the FAA have to say at the end.
I anticpate some good news for the 787 program tomorrow. A bankruptcy judge in New York is expected to have a hearing on the restructured (renegotiated) aircraft purchase contracts that American Airlines will present. I think it may be approved tomorrow and if so then Boeing can add 42 787s (20 787-8 and 22 787-9) to their backlog by the end of this week.