The FAA and EASA have certified the first lithium ion battery for engine start and main ship use in light aircraft. Mid-Continent Instrument announced at HAI Heli-Expo Tuesday that the TrueBlue TB17, a 17 amp hour battery designed for piston and light turbine aircraft, is now available for OEMs to incorporate into new aircraft. The battery will not be available as an aftermarket item, at least at first. The company is also developing a 44 amp hour lithium ion battery for the business jet market. The batteries were announced at NBAA in Las Vegas last October and featured in an AVweb Audio podcast.
The batteries are about 45 percent lighter than lead-acid batteries, charge faster and last longer, according to the company. Although they cost more initially, Mid-Continent says they cost less overall because of their longer life and because they need less frequent maintenance. The fast charge adds a level of safety because full battery power is available shortly after startup in case of an engine or alternator failure early in the flight. Lithium ion batteries have been in the news because of fire problems on Boeing 787s but Mid-Continent says its stable “nanophosphate” chemistry and multiple redundant layers of protection against overcharging and overheating make them safe. No OEMs have announced they’ll be using the new batteries but Mid-Continent officials said at NBAA there had been interest.