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IAG CEO Buying Boeing 787s Backs Airbus A350 Battery Switch

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IAG Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh
IAG Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh speaks during the Aviation Carbon Conference in London. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- IAG Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said Airbus was right to remove lithium-ion batteries from the A350 aircraft after fires in similar Boeing Co. power packs grounded the global fleet of 787 Dreamliners.

“Its a sensible thing to do,” Walsh said of Airbus’s decision, which the planemaker disclosed last week. While the switch will add weight, Walsh said it’s the right move, “given the problems that the industry has seen in relation to the use of lithium-ion batteries and the concern that has grown in the public domain about lithium-ion batteries.”

Walsh, speaking at the Aviation Carbon 2013 conference near his London Heathrow office, is awaiting delivery of the first of 30 787s in May. International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, as IAG is known, is not a customer of the A350, which is slated for its maiden flight toward the middle of this year.

Boeing has suspended 787 deliveries since the fleet was grounded on Jan. 16 after a fire on an All Nippon Airways flight linked to a lithium-ion power cell. The company has told airlines with near-term delivery slots their jets may be delayed. Airbus last week switched from the Li-ion technology in favor of traditional nickel cadmium cells.

Walsh said the Airbus shift will come at a cost because it adds weight and will therefore “clearly have an environmental impact.” The older-technology batteries weigh 60 kilograms (132 pounds) more to deliver the same power, he said.

Walsh reiterated his confidence in the Dreamliner aircraft batteries, saying “the technical issues will be resolved and we will be able to move forward with the use of lithium ion as a power source.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net; Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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