The National Transportation Safety Board on May 22 issued five safety recommendations to the FAA related to the evaluation and certification of lithium-ion batteries, as well as the certification of new technology. The recommendations evolved through the ongoing investigation of a Jan. 7, 2013, lithium-ion battery fire aboard a Boeing 787 parked at Boston Logan Airport.
Lithium iron phosphate battery
Mid-Continent Instrument’s True Blue Power division introduced two new lithium-ion main-ship batteries yesterday, designed for jets, turboprops, piston airplanes and helicopters. The new 28-volt batteries come in two sizes: the TB44 (44 ampere hours) and TB17 (17 ampere hours), and can be seen at Mid-Continent’s NBAA exhibit (Booth No. C10040). These new batteries, which will be certified and ready for deliveries in the fourth quarter this year, are first being offered to aircraft manufacturers and not yet to the aftermarket.
As Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways and other Boeing 787 customers are returning their Dreamliners to service with battery system modification kits, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still looking for the cause of the January 7 APU battery fire aboard a Japan Airlines 787 parked at Boston Logan International Airport.
Only one business jet thus far has been certified with a lithium-ion main-ship battery, Cessna’s Citation CJ4, which employed lithium-iron phosphate technology, unlike the lithium-cobalt oxide chemistry in the Boeing 787 batteries. No other business jet has been certified with a lithium-ion main-ship battery, although Gulfstream had planned to employ a lithium-ion battery in the G650 before switching to a nickel-cadmium battery while the aircraft was still working its way toward certification.
EaglePicher Technologies expects to certify a lithium-ion main-ship aircraft battery by year-end, according to Ron Nowlin, vice president and general manager of EaglePicher Aerospace Systems. The battery has been selected for a jet, but Nowlin was unable to reveal the OEM and said he “cannot confirm” news reports “that we are doing any work for Cessna.”
The Cessna Citation CJ4 is currently the only business jet certified with (but no longer flying with) a lithium-ion main-ship battery, using lithium-iron phosphate, not the lithium-cobalt oxide battery found on the Boeing 787, which is currently grounded in the wake of battery fires.
Stricter International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations for the bulk shipment of lithium batteries by air took effect on January 1. Smaller quantities and packages of the widely used batteries, which can overheat and catch fire, now stand subject to labeling, packaging and documentation requirements.
Sometime in 2011 (we can’t be sure when), an airport worker hooked up an energized ground-power unit to a Cessna Citation CJ4 (525C), according to the FAA. The CJ4 was the first business jet certified with a lithium-ion main-ship battery.
The FAA has issued Special Conditions for the Cessna 680 Sovereign, for which Cessna proposes to use rechargeable lithium-ion main batteries and APU start batteries. According to the FAA, lithium-ion batteries differ significantly from the nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad) and lead-acid rechargeable batteries currently approved.