Tuesday, March 12, 2013

FAA Approves Boeing's Plan Off The Chalk Board and Into The Lab

With erasers and chalk in hand, Boeing has passed a significant hurdle in moving the 787 Battery crises forward.  The lines circles and formulas on the black board has an FAA undiluted attention on a battery fix. How one knows from the press what this all means, is a vast speculation on a fix. I will take a Quick and Dirty note pad and take a stab at what I just read in the press.

Randy Tinseth VP Boeing Sales, Reports on his Blog:

Testing Our Solution

"1) We’ve improved design features of the battery to prevent faults from occurring and isolating any that do. That includes the addition of new thermal and electrical insulation materials and other changes.
2) We’ve enhanced production, operating and testing processes to ensure the highest levels of quality and performance of the battery and its components. That includes more stringent screening of battery cells prior to battery assembly. Operational improvements focus on tightening of the system’s voltage range.
3) In the unlikely event of a battery failure, we’ve introduced a new enclosure system that will keep any level of battery overheating from affecting the airplane or being noticed by passengers. A key feature ensures that no fire can develop in the enclosure or in the battery."

Herald Net

"Federal regulators on Tuesday approved the Boeing Co.'s plan to redesign 787 lithium-ion batteries, the first step in returning the grounded Dreamliner jet to passenger service.

Boeing will need to "conduct extensive testing and analysis" of the battery redesign, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Tuesday.

"We are confident the plan we approved today includes all the right elements to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the battery system redesign," FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta said in a statement.

The FAA grounded Boeing's 787 on Jan. 16 after lithium-ion batteries on two 787s failed. Ray Conner, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, presented the company's proposed solution to the FAA in late February.

On Tuesday, the FAA said Boeing's proposal includes "a redesign of the internal battery components to minimize initiation of a short circuit within the battery, better insulation of the cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system."

The FAA said Tuesday that it will allow limited test flights on two Boeing 787s to allow the company to verify that the battery redesign will work. In the meantime, the Jan. 16 grounding remains in effect."

My own bullet points solution for Airworthiness.

  • Treat the systems and symptoms
  • Isolate the Battery Risks from runaway heating. 
  • Install fire walls
  • Install battery program firewalls for active runaway heat management.

Bottom of the List Items not precluding airworthiness 

  • Determine a root cause of battery runaway with FAA
  • Remove any potential for battery destabilization in battery area.
  • Robust Testing and implementing validating solutions. 

Ray Conner offers:

In a Boeing statement, Conner outlined “three layers of improvements.”
  • One involves redesign of the battery “to prevent faults from occurring and to isolate any that do.”
  • Another involves “enhanced production, operating and testing processes” 

for the battery; reports earlier this month said battery supplier GS Yuasa had been advised by outside experts to tighten inspection and reject more batteries from its production line. to ensure the highest levels of quality and performance of the battery and its components.
  • The third level of protection is an improved system for channeling smoke and volatile liquids out of the airplane “in the unlikely event of a battery failure,” said Conner. He said the “enclosure system .... will keep any level of battery overheating from affecting the airplane or being noticed by passengers.”
Not much different than what I suggested above, but very similar to what I have in mind in general. What is missing from the symptomatic treatment is not having a stated causal approach. However, symptoms or conditions may be the battery's culprit in all this mess. A runaway battery may need a stronger leash applied on it, from its own self destruction.  Keeping it together and managed is the possible solution from causing it to melt down.  The automobile has a radiator, antifreeze and a regulating thermostat for keeping it together. Maybe Boeing's solution is just a high tech version of this on the Lithium-Ion Battery. Going back to Ray Conner' and Randy Tinseth's, statements, suggest to me, that installing strong layers of insulating battery walls structure and gas /fire containment as part of the solution, suggest to me,  that the problem is inherent to the nature of the battery under certain situations or conditions, and can be controlled with added layers of prevention built into the system.  

The testing phase is testing a Boeing remedial solution, which will keep an inconsistent nature of the Lithium Ion battery in control similar to an over heating engine block on the race track. You employ measures and test those measures to make the battery and electrical system sound when battery heating fluctuations or anomalies occur, which would endanger a cell.  If that does occur, then steps are built in which isolates the runaway and not harming flight operations.