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Dreamliner latest to endure battery technology issues

PHOENIX — The most sophisticated aircraft ever built remains grounded because of a battery problem but a Valley aviation consultant is confident the Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be back in the air soon.

Dreamliners were grounded because of battery fire and now National Transportation Safety Board investigators have come to Arizona to test chargers for the airliner batteries made by Securaplane Technologies in Oro Valley.

Longtime American Airlines pilot Jim Tilmon said this is the first time that batteries of this type — lithium ion — have been used on a commercial aircraft. The challenge is unexpected but it’s not the first time that battery technology has been an issue.

“They (investigators) will find the problem just like the found problems with laptop computer batteries, auto batteries, even cellphone batteries. We’re talking billions of dollars that are stake here. I mean billions with a B.”

Tilmon said the Dreamliner is not Grandpa’s airplane. About the only thing it has in common with older aircraft is that the wheels are round.

“The airplane lives and breathes on its electrical system and that means the batteries are extremely important. This is the first time batteries of this type have ever been used on a commercial airplane and this is groundbreaking in many ways and we’re learning as we go along.

“Fire is one thing we don’t like to think about on an airplane because you can’t just pull over and wait for the fire department,” Tilmon said.