Cause or casualty? NTSB photo of burned 787 Lithium-ion battery

No sooner were there positive signs of a wide ranging solution to the Dreamliner 787 battery problem than the maker of the battery, GS Yuasa Corp of Japan went public with its differences with Boeing as to what precautions should be included in the ‘fix’.

The disagreement is disturbing in its detail, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that Yuasa told the FAA agency that its laboratory tests indicated a power surge outside the battery, or other external problem, started the failures on two batteries.

However Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said that the investigation has not showed that overcharging was a factor and that the 787 had quadruple-redundant protection against overcharging in any case.

This puts Yuasa and Boeing at odds over what exactly was going on inside the electrical systems and the large lithium-ion batteries that failed in different locations in an ANA and a JAL 787 in January, causing the grounding of all Dreamliners.

At the outset, technicalities aside, such disunity over detail but not purpose between Yuasa and Boeing is death to public if not regulatory confidence in such a high profile matter of airliner safety.

There must be some furious efforts going on at this time to reconcile the different positions and get on with solving two critical battery failures that Boeing always insisted were an impossibility in the Dreamliner design even for several days after the physical evidence was presented of a fire burning inside the JAL battery for at least 99 minutes while a Boston airport firefighting unit fought to bring it under control.

Who do we trust? Boeing, or Yuasa? It’s an alarming question to have to ask.

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