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Airbus warned airlines of lithium battery risks in early 2012

05 February 2013

According to Reuters, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus told an airline management forum in March 2012 that in the event of overheating, lithium-ion batteries could leak, emit smoke, catch fire and even explode. US rival Boeing has had to ground its new 787 Dreamliners after two incidents where lithium batteries have caught fire.

Photo: Boeing
Photo: Boeing

The presentation by Christine Bezard, flight safety leader of the planned Airbus A350 aircraft, which will also use the batteries, concluded that risks associated with lithium batteries “require the attention of the entire industry."

US and Japanese authorities are investigating a battery fire and a smoke incident on two separate Dreamliners in recent weeks, with attention focused on their lithium battery power units. The 787 is the first passenger jet to use these batteries for back-up and auxiliary power.

The lack of a fire suppression system on the Boeing 787 is one of the issues being examined by the National Transportation Safety Board as it investigates the fire at Boston Logan. Besides the NTSB investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration is also conducting a design review of the 787.

On February 4 Boeing asked the FAA for permission to conduct test flights of the 787, which could mean it is making progress over the battery problems. The Seattle Times said Boeing was testing a potential fix for the problem, but that passenger flights would still be weeks if not months away.

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