NTSB continues probe of 787 battery fire

The investigation into the Jan. 7 fire on a Boeing 787 continues with aviation officials conducting chemical analysis of the jet’s lithium-ion battery and looking for signs of manufacturing defects.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued its sixth report Tuesday on the fire on a Japan Airlines 787 that was parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

From the NTSB press release:

The examination of the damaged battery continues. The work has transitioned from macroscopic to microscopic examinations and into chemical and elemental analysis of the areas of internal short circuiting and thermal damage.

Examination and testing of the exemplar battery from the JAL airplane has begun at the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center laboratories. Detailed examinations will be looking for signs of in-service damage and manufacturing defects. The test program will include mechanical and electrical tests to determine the performance of the battery, and to uncover signs of any degradation in expected performance.

As a party contributing to the investigation, Boeing is providing pertinent fleet information, which will help investigators understand the operating history of lithium-ion batteries on those airplanes.

An investigative group continued to interpret data from the two digital flight data recorders on the aircraft, and is examining recorded signals to determine if they might yield additional information about the performance of the battery and the operation of the charging system.

In addition to the activities in Washington, investigators are continuing their work in Seattle and Japan.

Last week, Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB, called the 787 battery troubles “a very serious safety concern.”

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded Boeing’s 787s on Jan. 16, after a malfunctioning batter on an All Nippon Airways 787 prompted an emergency landing of that plane in Japan.

Boeing is assisting both U.S. and Japanese aviation officials in the investigations but says it is not permitted to comment directly on an ongoing investigation. The aerospace giant reports its fourth quarter and 2012 earnings tomorrow.

The NTSB plans to issue another update on Friday.

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