On Wednesday, one of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliners made an emergency landing after an unusual smell flooded the cockpit. While no one was hurt in the incident, this is the second Dreamliner in just over a week to experience an issue. The lithium-ion batteries in the aircraft may be the culprit, and 787s have been grounded for safety inspections.
Lithium-ion batteries charge more quickly and operate more efficiently than traditional batteries. Their inclusion in the Dreamliner is part of an ongoing trend towards an aircraft less reliant on hydraulic and mechanical systems in favor of electronically run systems. Naturally, those systems require more power from batteries, but unfortunately, Li-ion systems are susceptible to fire in the case of overcharging. This is something that Boeing's own engineers have admitted.
Boeing, as well as airlines that fly 787s, are defending the aircraft's overall safety, saying that battery troubles are effectively growing pains for the new aircraft. That said, two Japanese carriers have already grounded their 787 fleets for safety inspections. As a cloud grows over the Dreamliner, the FAA has also announced a new review of the safety of the craft, only 15 months after the 787 received its original certification to fly in the U.S. The manufacturer of the battery in question, a Japanese firm called GS Yuasa, has yet to comment on the situation. We hope that their engineers are busier than their PR team.