SEATTLE – Boeings supplier of lithium-ion batteries for its 787 Dreamliners tightened quality checks after the planemaker sought advice from other companies that use the technology, said five people with knowledge of the matter.
Boeing tapped Ford, General Motors, General Electric, United Technologies and others to provide expertise after battery faults grounded the global 787 fleet on Jan. 16, said the people, who asked not to be identified as they arent authorized to speak publicly.
GS Yuasa, the supplier, has doubled the number of its tests on the advice of a Non-Advocate Review panel created by Boeing with officials from some of the companies, one person said. Fixing the batteries is key to resuming 787 service, and Boeing faces penalties from the eight airlines that operate the 787s as well as those whose deliveries have been delayed.
The panel, along with engineers from Boeing, Thales SA and GS Yuasa SA identified improvements that could be made to the battery, the battery system and the airplane installation that would provide three distinct layers of protection, said Marc Birtel, a spokesman at Boeings commercial headquarters in Seattle. Among the items in this comprehensive set of solutions were improvements to the production process.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said he was connected with Boeings chief engineer, Mike Sinnet, by Richard Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic Airways has 16 787s on order. Tesla builds the Model S electric sedan, which also uses a lithium-ion battery.
Automaker representatives on Boeings panel examined GS Yuasas testing protocol and were surprised to learn that more than 90 percent of the batteries were passing quality control, said two people with knowledge of the matter.
In the electric-vehicle industry, that figure is around 60 percent, they said.
The Japan Transport Safety Board said March 5 it had ended testing of the GS Yuasa batteries and hadnt found anything notably unusual.
United Technologies, which makes the auxiliary power unit that connects to the batteries, is working with Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, executives have said.