Battery Issue Grounds JAL 787

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A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 was grounded early Wednesday because of an overheated cell in one of its lithium ion batteries. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the incident occurred about 4 a.m. local time at Tokyo's Narita Airport. The aircraft did not have any passengers aboard but was scheduled to fly to Bangkok two hours later. It appears that modifications made to the batteries and associated systems added to 787s after a three-month grounding in 2013 did their job in the incident. “The improvements made to the 787 battery system last year appear to have worked as designed,” Boeing said in a statement. “We sincerely regret any impact caused to Japan Airlines and are working with them to return this airplane to service.” One of the battery's eight cells overheated but it did not spread to the rest of the battery, suggesting the extra insulation installed in the batteries kept the heat from spreading. The containment and exhaust system encasing the battery apparently kept the heat from damaging anything else and the fumes were vented outside, according to the early reports.

JAL quickly found another plane for the Bangkok trip but the larger question of what impact the incident will have on 787 operations likely won't be clear until later Wednesday. It was a fire in a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan Airport a year ago, and an in-flight fire aboard an ANA Dreamliner a couple of weeks later, that led to the grounding of more than 50 of the aircraft worldwide for three months last year. The NTSB still hasn't issued its final report on those incidents. That report isn't expected until sometime next year.