Boeing’s lithium ion batteries used in the problematic Dreamliner aircraft were recently approved for further use, however some are claiming that the methods the company used may not have given the most accurate results, The Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the news source, the regulators gave the solution the OK mostly after reviewing tests and analyses performed by the company itself, as opposed to a third-party independent group. The National Transportation Safety Board said the tests were approved based on a “high level system description” of the electrical components in the aircraft. However, the board then gave Boeing and its maintenance partners the freedom to perform the tests on their own accord.
Some of the results of these tests have made their way to the public, but once the safety board started a hearing on the assessments, several more questions have arisen regarding what kind of supervision Boeing was under from the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulating bodies. The media outlet stated that the hearing, which began on Tuesday, has brought the inspection into a new period, about three months after the aircraft fleet was originally grounded.
At the heart of the new concern is the NTSB’s inability to identify exactly what caused the battery problems in the aircraft, which prompted the most recent session. This led many to cry out that the testing process may be filled with holes – especially in the 2007 approval of the lithium ion batteries.
However, the NTSB has announced it plans to improve its testing processes to keep any defective products, such as the Dreamliner battery, from slipping through the cracks during the testing phase.
“We are looking for lessons learned,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said, and “for knowledge that can be applied to emerging technologies going forward.” Hersman added that it is “very normal and accepted” for industry and the FAA to work closely together, but that NTSB still hopes to “understand and ensure there are appropriate checks and balances.”
According to the news source, a recent testimony questioned why the FAA did not review the batteries’ safety even after new guidelines were passed following the initial approval of the component. The FAA responded that it “did not feel we needed to incorporate” the new guidelines into the battery approval for the Dreamliner.
The testing method
The Guardian reports that during the safety hearing, Jerry Hulm, systems engineer for Boeing, stated that the batteries underwent more than 10,000 hours of intense testing. What’s more, Martin Robinett, Boeing’s manager of regulatory administration, added that the tests confirmed that there was a one-in10-million chance of a “major or severe” failure anytime in the future. The chances of a “catastrophic” failure were put even higher, closer to one in a billion, he said.
The problems started when one Dreamliner aircraft, touted to be the future of the aerospace industry, caught fire while sitting in Boston’s Logan International Airport. Within weeks, another Dreamliner flight in Japan was canceled after a smoke alarm went off, stemming from the battery problems.