Boeing Says Car Battery Fire Won’t Affect 787 Test-Flight Plans

Boeing Co. said test flights aimed at restoring grounded 787s to service after battery overheating won’t be affected by a blaze reported in a car battery made by a unit of the company supplying the planemaker.

“We have been assured that the battery in question is fundamentally different from the 787 battery both in its construction processes, design and chemistry,” said Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman. An auto battery made by a unit of GS Yuasa Corp. caught fire March 18 during testing, said Mitsubishi Motors Corp., a partner in the battery maker.

Boeing is focusing on the 787’s lithium-ion cells that drew scrutiny by U.S. regulators after one caught fire on a parked jet in Boston and another began smoldering and smoking, prompting an emergency landing in Japan. The aircraft maker added safety modifications to the batteries and plans a second 787 test flight in “coming days” before submitting the changes to the Federal Aviation Administration as it seeks approval to restore the grounded planes to service.

GS Yuasa reported the car battery fire to Boeing, which is working toward government approval of a fix to its 787 batteries, Birtel said yesterday.

The planemaker said March 15 that changes to the design and added safeguards, such as a new enclosure and a vent line, will ensure safety.

Boeing, which has a backlog of more than 800 Dreamliners with a list price starting at about $207 million, has halted deliveries until commercial service resumes.

The battery that caught fire was produced by Lithium Energy Japan, a unit of GS Yuasa that makes batteries for Mitsubishi Motors, Tomoko Kawabe, a spokeswoman for the automaker, said by phone. The automaker owns 4.4 percent of the closely held company, with GS Yuasa holding 51 percent and Mitsubishi Corp. owning 44.6 percent, according to Kawabe.

The Mitsubishi car battery that caught fire was built at a different factory than those made for the 787, a GS Yuasa spokesman said by e-mail.

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