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Aviation Looks To Lighter Batteries With Longer Lives | Inside MRO, Aviation Week

14 Oct 2021

Aviation Week's, Inside MRO, spoke to AJW Technique Europe about the aircraft battery market and future developments.

Aviation Week spoke to Sajedah Rustom, Chief Executive Officer of AJW Technique - read the full article on Aviation Week's website here or extracts of our contribution below.


James Pozzi reports that despite progress in battery applications over the past decade, the market for aircraft batteries in 2021 remains centered on three types.


The commercial segment has long been primarily driven by nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries, viewed as a robust option for powering systems in aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and a more popular option than valve-regulated lead-acid and lithium-ion battery types. Moves toward smaller and lighter lithium-ion batteries, deemed to be less maintenance-intensive and to have longer lives than Ni-Cd batteries, have stalled over the past decade because of concern about their associated safety hazards and higher costs.


While lithium-ion batteries are becoming increasingly common for functions such as electronic flight bags (EFB) in aircraft cockpits, their use as a main power application for the auxiliary power unit has not extended far beyond some of the newest airframe programs such as the Boeing 787.


The marketplace is dominated by several manufacturers including GS Yusa, Concorde Battery, MarathonNorco Aerospace and France-based Saft Aviation, which says it provides batteries for two-thirds of the world’s aircraft and has a network of 26 authorized repair shops.


Aviation Looks To Lighter Batteries With Longer Lives | Inside MRO, Aviation Week

Although the COVID-19 crisis brought mass fleet groundings throughout most of 2020 that extended into 2021, demand for battery repair services did not slow.


Established battery repair specialist AJW Technique, the MRO parts supply specialist in the AJW Group. The company announced last month that it is expanding beyond its Montreal maintenance facility with the opening of a repair base close to London Gatwick Airport. Capabilities there will include services for aircraft battery repairs, which include regular checks to carry out static reading, residual discharging, main and top charging, capacity testing, recharging, adjusting electrolyte levels and return-to-service releases. It also performs overhauls, disassembly, cleaning and temperature-sensor testing. Regular checks typically take up to five days and overhauls up to seven.


AJW Technique Europe will predominantly focus on Ni-Cd models, says AJW Technique CEO Sajedah Rustom. “There has not been a transition in the older platforms, perhaps driven by the certification issues experienced on the 787,” she says of the relative scarcity of lithium-ion batteries found on legacy programs.


Repair challenges related to batteries center on several areas. One of these is undertaking the regular maintenance of batteries in an approved workshop as recommended by the manufacturer’s OMM/CMM [operation and maintenance manual/component maintenance manual], and ensuring the correct electrolyte levels, says AJW’s Rustom. “The main hazard for batteries with Ni-Cd technology is excessive heat that can lead to incidents in the event of short-circuits,” she adds.


Innovation in nickel-based batteries is also progressing, with the development of lighter, more cost-efficient options due to added environmental considerations. In 2019, Saft unveiled a new ultra-low-maintenance (ULM) nickel-based battery aimed at offering longer maintenance intervals and lower total cost of ownership. Boeing contracted Saft to fit all its new 777 and 777X aircraft with the Ni-Cd battery system, which operates with a dedicated charger. The Chinese-made Comac C919 commercial aircraft also will be fitted with ULM batteries over a period of 20 years.


Find out more about AJW Technique Europe and our battery capabilities here


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