Friday, February 8, 2013

Airbus still plans use of lithium Ion batteries on A350

Airbus is still comfortable about using lithium ion batteries on its A350 aircraft, which is under development, but has the option to return to conventional batteries, Airbus spokesperson Stefan Schaffrath told ATW. He said the manufacturer will carefully study recommendations that come out of the Boeing 787 investigation and evaluate whether it should be applied to the A350.

FAA and US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting an investigation into the Jan. 7 Japan Airlines 787 fire in Boston and the All Nippon Airways (ANA) 787 “smoke event” that occurred Jan. 16. The ANA incident, which led to an emergency landing, is also linked to a damaged lithium ion battery.

FAA grounded the aircraft Jan 16. except for limited test flights to help determine why batteries failed and overheated on the two in-service Dreamliners.

Airbus, however, has said it is monitoring the investigation but so far sees no need to change its A350 design.

“We have studied the classical design of traditional batteries in the past. If … NTSB has doubts [about using lithium ion batteries], we still have all options open and can go back to the classical design,” Schaffrath told ATW. But he said this move will happen only if it “really becomes necessary.”

He said Airbus has a time advantage with the A350, which is due to enter service in the second half of 2014. “We still have some time for our first aircraft deliveries,” he said, adding there was no reason yet to discard future technology plans for using lithium ion batteries in aircraft.

Bloomberg has reported that Airbus is developing plans to use standard batteries in the A350 to avoid similar problems or certification issues. However, nickel-cadmium power sources are larger and heavier, weighing roughly twice as much as lithium ion and adding about 200 pounds to the aircraft, according to Bloomberg.

Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Brégier told ATW recently that he was “confident of what we have done so far. We bring more maturity for the A350.” Brégier said so far the tests of all A350 systems in the last year have looked good; however, the program—which is on-target for first flight by mid-year— remains “very challenging.”

Brégier told reporters last week that while the A350 has a “robust design,” there is nothing to stop the company from returning to a “classical plan” if necessary.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

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