After fires aboard at least two Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger aircraft, the entire fleet of fifty has been grounded since January.
The advanced-technology Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s lithium-ion backup batteries are important because they serve as backup power for the plane’s fly-by-wire system.
Switching from hydraulic controls to electrical controls, and other weight-saving measures, significantly reduce the weight of the whole aircraft, boosting efficiency. In case the engine-mounted generators fail, the backup power supply takes over so that pilots have time to rectify the situation or to make a safe landing.
Any kind of failure needs to be investigated and rectified to ensure the safety of passengers, crew, cargo, and people on the ground. Fires originating in the backup battery packs aboard a couple of Boeing 787 Dreamliners prompted the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] to ground the entire fleet of fifty in January.
While the exact cause of the fire isn’t exactly known, Boeing engineers have taken precautions to prevent future problems by adding more electrical insulation between individual cells and encasing the entire battery pack in a stainless-steel box vented to the exterior of the plane.
Test flights with the new steel enclosure have been taking place with both Boeing engineers and FAA investigators on board. Boeing wants to see the fleet in the air by the end of May, but there is no timetable on the FAA’s response and final determination regarding the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the retrofitted lithium-ion backup battery packs.