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NTSB identifies origin of JAL Boeing 787 battery fire
7 February 2013
B787 JA829JA at Boston Airport during the battery fire incident (photo: NTSB)

B787 JA829JA at Boston Airport during the battery fire incident (photo: NTSB)

The U.S NTSB announced that they have identified the origin of the Jan. 7 battery fire that occurred on a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 parked at Boston-Logan Airport. The focus of the investigation will now be on the design and certification requirements of the battery system.

After an exhaustive examination of the JAL lithium-ion battery, which was comprised of eight individual cells, investigators determined that the majority of evidence from the flight data recorder and both thermal and mechanical damage pointed to an initiating event in a single cell. That cell showed multiple signs of short circuiting, leading to a thermal runaway condition, which then cascaded to other cells. Charred battery components indicated that the temperature inside the battery case exceeded 500° Fahrenheit (260° C).

As investigators work to find the cause of the initiating short circuit, they ruled out both mechanical impact damage to the battery and external short circuiting. It was determined that signs of deformation and electrical arcing on the battery case occurred as a result of the battery malfunction and were not related to its cause.

Potential causes of the initiating short circuit currently being evaluated include battery charging, the design and construction of the battery, and the possibility of defects introduced during the manufacturing process.

During the 787 certification process, Boeing studied possible failures that could occur within the battery. Those assessments included the likelihood of particular types of failures occurring, as well as the effects they could have on the battery. In tests to validate these assessments, Boeing found no evidence of cell-to-cell propagation or fire, both of which occurred in the JAL event.

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