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True Blue Introduces GA Lithium Batteries

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True Blue Power unveiled two new lithium ion batteries for general aviation aircraft Monday at the 2013 National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas. The Wichita-based company, which is a subsidiary of Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics, introduced ship's power batteries aimed at both the twin business jet market and the turboprop and piston single segments. CEO Todd Winter said the batteries, which are rated at 44 ampere hours and 17 ampere hours respectively, are much lighter and require less maintenance than lead acid or nickel cadmium batteries. Although they cost more initially than the other types, the reduced maintenance and relative longevity of the lithium ion batteries make them less expensive in the long run, Winter said. They also offer some significant performance advantages, including more starting power and quick recharge. The big battery will charge from flat to fully energized in 15 minutes. "Pretty much by the time you're off the runway, you're at full emergency backup power," he said. The higher energy density brings some increased hazards but Brett Williams, who heads up the engineering team that designed the batteries, said built-in safeguards will prevent any sort of battery malfunction from damaging the aircraft.

Williams said there are microprocessors inside the battery case that monitor and prevent overcharging and overheating of the batteries. The battery health can also be monitored in the cockpit.  He said the type of reagents used in these batteries are inherently safer than those used in the lithium ion batteries that caught fire and caused the months-long grounding of Boeing's 787 fleet earlier this year. If something does happen, however, the steel case is designed to contain the failure. The safety features have all been thoroughly tested and the FAA is expected to issue TSOs on both batteries by the end of the year. True Blue is also mounting an education campaign to get accurate information about the potential and the perils of lithium ion power out to the industry and consumers. A series of seminars called Lithium Batteries 101 will be held throughout the U.S. and internationally in the coming year. The batteries will only be available to OEMs at first but the company says they may eventually be available as after-market items. Winter said there are a number of OEMs interested in the batteries but he wouldn't say who.

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