TOKYO — An investigation into a lithium ion battery that overheated on a Boeing 787 flight in Japan last month found evidence of the same type of “thermal runaway” seen in a similar incident in Boston, officials said Tuesday.
The Japan Transportation Safety Board said CAT scans and other types of analysis found damage to all eight cells in the battery that overheated on the All Nippon Airways 787 on Jan. 16, which prompted an emergency landing and probes by U.S. and Japanese aviation safety regulators.
They also found signs of short-circuiting and “thermal runaway,” a chemical reaction in which rising temperature causes progressively hotter temperatures. U.S. investigators found similar evidence in the battery that caught fire last month on a Japan Airlines 787 parked in Boston.
Photos distributed by the Japanese investigators show severe charring of six of the eight cells in the ANA 787’s battery, and a frayed and broken earthing wire, meant to minimize the risk of electric shock.
All 50 Boeing 787s in operation are grounded as regulators and Boeing investigate the problem. The Japanese probe is focusing on flight data records and on the charger and other electrical systems connected to the damaged battery.
Lithium ion batteries are more susceptible to catch fire when they overheat or to short-circuit than other types of batteries.
Boeing built in safeguards to gain safety certification for use of the relatively light and powerful batteries to power various electrical systems on the 787, the world’s first airliner made mostly from lightweight composite materials.
Investigators earlier said they found no evidence of quality problems with production of the 787’s batteries by Kyoto, Japan-based, GS Yuasa, whose own aerospace ambitions are on the line.
Yuasa said Tuesday that its April-December net profit fell 3.6 percent to $59.6 million from a year earlier, as demand for batteries lagged due to sluggish demand in Japan and overseas.
Separately, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration did not make a decision Tuesday on a request by Boeing to fly some of its grounded 787s to further look into the battery problem.
Four of the airplanes are parked on the tarmac outside the company’s 6,000-worker Dreamliner campus at Charleston International Airport.
With a line of 787s at the ready at Paine Field in Everett, Wash., federal regulators were still evaluating Boeing’s request to conduct test flights of its Dreamliners, which were grounded nearly three weeks ago.×
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