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Airbus Pulls Lithium-Ion Battery Out Of Its A350

A tail of an Airbus long-haul  A350 XWB under construction at the European aircraft maker's assembly line in France.
AFP/Getty Images
A tail of an Airbus long-haul A350 XWB under construction at the European aircraft maker's assembly line in France.

Boeing's European rival Airbus announced a significant change to its A350-XWB airliner on Friday: It is abandoning plans to use a lithium-ion battery, the same kind that has caused Boeing so much trouble with its 787 Dreamliner.

The A350 is Airbus' version of the Dreamliner — a lighter, more fuel efficient plane made primarily out of a carbon fiber instead of aluminum and steel.

The New York Times explains:

"Airbus said it started informing airline customers on Thursday that it would not move ahead with an original plan to use the lightweight lithium-ion batteries to power a number of the A350's onboard systems, and would revert instead to a conventional battery, made of nickel-cadmium, that is already used extensively on existing Airbus models.

"'Airbus considers this to be the most appropriate way forward in the interest of program execution and reliability,' said Marcella Muratore, an Airbus spokeswoman."

Lithium-ion batteries have been in the spotlight after two batteries on Boeing 787s caught fire, causing all of the company's 50 Dreamliners to be grounded.

Reuters reports that Airbus' decision is fueled by industry fear that "failure to identify the "root cause" of the burning battery incidents leaves too much uncertainty over whether regulators will certify planes as safe when relying on the powerful but temperamental power packs."

Earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the Dreamliner fires, said that the FAA should reconsider its approval of lithium-ion batteries on the 787s.

USA Today reports that the A350 is scheduled to take flight in 2014.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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