NTSB takes microscopes to damaged Boeing 787 battery

Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:47pm EST
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday it was carrying out a detailed, microscopic investigation of a battery that caught fire on a Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) 787 Dreamliner in Boston this month as the probe dragged into a fourth week.

All 50 Boeing Dreamliners remain grounded around the world, as the U.S., Japanese and French governments continue to investigate that fire and a separate battery-related incident that forced another 787 to make an emergency landing in Japan.

The NTSB said experts at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center laboratories were looking at a second, undamaged lithium-ion battery pulled from the same Japan Airlines (9201.T: Quote) plane that caught fire in Boston for signs of in-service damage and manufacturing defects. Both batteries were built by GS Yuasa (6674.T: Quote), a Japanese company.

At the same time, Boeing was giving investigators relevant fleet information about its 787 airliners, which would help investigators understand the operating history of lithium-ion batteries on those airplanes, the NTSB said.

U.S., Japanese and French safety inspectors - aided by industry officials - have been trying to determine what caused the battery fire on the 787 in Boston and a separate smoke incident that forced the other 787 to make an emergency landing in Japan the following week.

After weeks of investigative work in Japan and various sites in the United States, officials still do not have any answers, raising concerns that Boeing and the airlines that operate the world's newest airliner will face a bigger-than-expected financial hit while it remains grounded.

The NTSB's latest update on the 787 investigation came hours after U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced he planned to resign, marking the latest departure from President Barack Obama's Cabinet.

Boeing's shares closed 0.5 percent lower at $73.65 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Investors are looking for news about how long the probe will take when Boeing reports its fourth quarter earnings on Wednesday.   Continued...