SC-225 and SC-235 Provide Guidance For Lithium Batteries in Aircraft
“In response to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation, RTCA was asked to respond quickly to the highly-public issue of lithium batteries on aircraft,” said RTCA President Margaret Jenny. “The skilled leadership of Richard Nguyen, Stephen Diehl, Norman Pereira, John Trela, and Jeff Densmore enabled their respective committees to remain focused on their tasks and produce timely standards that will have an immediate and positive impact on aviation.”

SC-225, Rechargeable Lithium Batteries & Battery Systems, was established in 2010 to develop certification guidance for small and medium rechargeable lithium batteries and battery systems. After developing DO-347, Certification Test Guidance for Small and Medium Sized Rechargeable Lithium Batteries and Battery Systems, in 2013, the group began working on the revisions of  DO-311, Minimum Operational Performance Standard (MOPS) for Rechargeable Lithium Battery Systems, to assure the batteries and battery systems will perform their intended function(s) safely under conditions encountered in aeronautical operations.

 

In June 2015, SC-235, Non-Rechargeable Lithium Batteries, was established to revise DO-227, MOPS for Lithium Batteries, to incorporate new technology and lessons learned covering on-rechargeable lithium battery technology and the use of non-rechargeable lithium batteries. The goal of both special committees has been to capture the most current understanding of rechargeable and non-rechargeable lithium battery technology, to ensure safety and efficiency in battery design, testing, installation and system management.

As the Designated Federal Officer for both SC-225 and SC-235, Norman Pereira represented the Federal Aviation Administration in the updating of DO-311 and DO-227. In describing the work of the committees, he stressed the importance of continued cooperation among the many parties in the aviation industry.

“There were many contentious and passionate debates between members, and safety always had to be at the forefront of these resolutions,” Norman said. “The conversations were not always easy, but having a safe product on aircraft made it all worthwhile.”

Norman gave special thanks to his fellow committee members of SC-225, Richard Nguyen and Stephen Diehl, both of whom were critical in the successful adoption of DO-311. Having retired before the completion of the project, Stephen might have been forgiven for leaving the issue in the hands of his colleagues, but he chose to stay on until the task was complete. That continuing dedication and support, according to Norman, was critical to the ultimate success of the Committee and was mirrored and magnified by Richard’s presence and input. In serving with Norman and Stephen, Richard says they each helped address the myriad of concerns surfaced by the committee members.

While SC-225 addressed rechargeable batteries, SC-235 was tasked with revising non-rechargeable lithium batteries. John Trela, a Boeing Commercial Airplanes Battery IPT project engineer, chaired SC-235 through this process. He ultimately guided the group to a consensus on a definition of “thermal runaway”. In addition, the Committee determined the requirements and test methods to characterize the impact of a thermal runaway condition of a non-rechargeable lithium battery installed in an end item.

“Updating DO-227 was a team effort, but specifically I would like to thank the leadership team of Norm Pereira, Karan Hofmann, and Jeff Densmore for their guidance and execution,” John said. “I would also like to acknowledge Jim Russell, Stuart Inkpen, and John Nielsen. They went above and beyond to ensure technical accuracy and clarity of the document.”

Jeff Densmore, Director of Engineering for Radiant Power Corp. and Dukane Seacom Inc, and Secretary for SC-235, had similar sentiments about his colleagues, whom he acknowledged for their ability to overcome obstacles and develop agreements that appealed to all parties.

“There were a wide variety of technical opinions discussed during our committee meetings, which were sometimes quite contentious,” he said. “Resolving these into a single set of requirements and test procedures that we could reach consensus on was the most challenging aspect of the Committee’s work.”

DFO Norman Pereira also praised the SC-235 members for their focus in developing the update to enhance safety which was quite evident in all the Committee proceedings. He continued that with all the participation and help of the entire committee, the final document was a very good document that would enhance safety. “[Specifically] I would also like to applaud the contributions of Nazih Khaouly of the FAA, as well as Steve Summer from the FAA Technical Center for their contributions to both standards, DO-311 and DO-227A,” he said.

Throughout the process of revising and completing their documents, these five individuals embodied the spirit of collaboration that is central to RTCA’s mission. As they move forward to work on future projects, the industry will continue to rely on their guidance and consensus-building to continue improving the state of aviation.