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NTSB says investigation of burned Boeing 787 battery may take a while


The head of the National Transportation Safety Board says the investigation into what went wrong with two batteries on Boeing 787s will still take a while to finish. 

The NTSB is the federal agency in charge of investigating transportation accidents. Its chair, Deborah Hersman, says teams are working around the clock to figure out why one of the batteries caught fire and another created smoke.

She says her investigators discovered short circuits in the battery that ignited at Logan airport in Boston but don’t yet know the cause. She says Japanese investigators are hard at work trying to figure out why another 787 battery created smoke, triggering an emergency landing and prompting the grounding of the 787 fleet.

Hersman says the Federal Aviation Administration took the right step in grounding the planes.

"These events should not happen as far as design of the aircraft there are multiple systems to protect against a battery event like this," Hersman said. "Those systems did not work as intended. We need to understand why."

Hersman says they’re using a scanning electron microscope to analyze the battery that caught fire – looking for contaminants or defects. She says her investigators will also examine and test intact batteries.

She says a drawdown test of a battery like this takes a week and that the investigation will not be completed overnight. Hersman says they won’t be rushed because this is “a very serious air safety concern.”

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.