TribLIVE

| Business

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

NTSB 'weeks away' from identifying Boeing battery faults

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

On the Grid

From the shale fields to the cooling towers, Trib Total Media covers the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. For the latest news and views on gas, coal, electricity and more, check out On the Grid today.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Bloomberg News
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Investigators are “weeks away” from determining what caused battery failures on Boeing Co.'s grounded 787 Dreamliner jet, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said.

“We are going to have some information tomorrow, but I think we are probably weeks away from being able to tell people, ‘Here's what exactly happened and what needs to change,' ” Chairman Deborah Hersman said at a breakfast on Wednesday with reporters in Washington.

Hersman's comments underscore the views of regulators that a lifting of the grounding order isn't imminent. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said this week that resumption of production flights or ferry flights would wait until “the investigation is done.”

Boeing asked the Federal Aviation Administration for approval to resume test flights with the 787 while grounding orders from the agency and regulators worldwide remain in place for airlines operating Dreamliners in commercial service.

LaHood, in remarks to reporters in Washington on Wednesday, declined to give a timetable for making a decision on Boeing's request or to predict a likely outcome.

Investigators are looking at each of the cells, the three windings in each of the cells and the component parts that make up the battery, Hersman said, including tests on examples of the batteries used in the jet.

The safety board is looking at “the macro level to the microscopic level on this battery,” Hersman said.

The board has evidence of short circuits in cells of the battery, “thermal runaway” and an uncontrolled chain reaction, Hersman said. “Those features are not what we would have expected to see in a brand-new battery on a brand-new airplane,” Hersman said. “We want to make sure the design is robust and the oversight of the manufacturing process is adequate.”

Hersman declined to comment on reports she will be nominated by President Obama to replace LaHood, who has said he'll leave his position once a successor is confirmed.

Regulators and Boeing are still trying to determine what caused a battery fire on one jet and a cockpit warning that spurred an emergency landing by another, which in turn triggered grounding orders worldwide on Jan. 16.

There are inherent risks in any new technology, including lithium-ion batteries, Hersman said. That doesn't mean the batteries are unsafe, she said.

The safety board understands that industry is going to come up with new materials, equipment and designs, Hersman said. At the same time, it wants to make sure manufacturers understand how the technology can fail and how to minimize any potential dangers, she said.

“That's never more important than aviation,” Hersman said. “They don't have the opportunity to pull over if there's a fire.”

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. EPA ordered to ease limits on cross-border air pollution that involves Pennsylvania
  2. PPG puts brand 1st in strategy to reach commercial paint market
  3. Travelers find Internet direct route to Priory’s spirited past in Pittsburgh’s North Side
  4. Pa. improves performance among competitive electric markets
  5. U.S. Steel posts quarterly loss, declares dividend
  6. Stocks end 5-day slide on strong Ford, UPS earnings
  7. U.S. Steel joins major producers in new dumping complaint
  8. Muni bond funds stressed
  9. Consol Energy, Range Resources report 2Q losses, plan deeper cuts
  10. Leisure, hospitality lead Pittsburgh area job gains
  11. Ambridge’s PittMoss takes off with help from TV show, Mt. Lebanon native Cuban