Batteries and the 787

There is a news report that the 787 has experienced another battery incident in Japan.

And when we digest the sensational reporting, we find that . . . not so much.

A single battery cell “vented” as designed when a 787 was undergoing scheduled maintenance.  The 787 was owned by JAL and US authorities have not decided to investigate.

Which brings me to another, related issue:  The 787 battery fix.

This is a fix that by all appearances has done exactly what it was designed to do which is to inhibit the problem from occurring but also protect the airliner if it does occur.  That single cell venting mentioned up above?  That’s a design working as it is supposed to.  A cell may destruct but now it can’t induce a runaway event in the battery itself.

I think quite a few people owe Boeing an apology for their rather strong criticisms of the battery fix design and what it would mean.  One of those people would be Elon Musk who famous tried to tell the chief engineer at Boeing how to fix the problem.  It’s notable that the Tesla S car is now the focus of . . . wait for it . . . batteries catching fire after accidents.

New technologies bring about new problems.  Sometimes those problems aren’t fully uncovered until something goes into service and that doesn’t mean aircraft (or cars) shouldn’t go into service.  We also shouldn’t be quite so quick to condemn an aircraft for a problem related to that new technology.  When the battery grounding was going on, there were several Talking Head experts opining that this aircraft is a failure and should possibly be permanently grounded.

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