Spotlight on Volunteers: Battery Standards Give New Life to the World

Other industries may take note of the news of a child's hoverboard battery causing a fire, or a cell phone battery exploding, concerned about damage and bad press. But to the aviation industry, that same news commands attention, so that the same problems will not result in catastrophic damage onboard an aircraft.  This vital concern has never been far from the minds of aircraft and battery manufacturers after several incidents occurred on different aircraft models involving rechargeable and non-rechargeable lithium batteries. These incidents spawned investigations by regulatory and investigative agencies on three continents.

"These events happened and it put the emphasis on ensuring a safe product for aircraft," said Boeing's Richard Nguyen, who is tasked with chairing SC-225, Rechargeable Lithium Batteries and Battery Systems, and creating performance standards for rechargeable lithium batteries.

Standards for rechargeable lithium batteries have been in existence for a number of years, but as technology has advanced and small- to medium-sized battery systems were used more and more for avionics and cabin systems equipment, performance standards needed to be updated, which led to the establishment of SC-225 six years ago.

"The work of SC-225 is critical to maintaining the enviable safety track record of aviation," said RTCA President Margaret Jenny. "We are lucky to have a seasoned professional at its helm."

New battery technology has benefitted the airline industry, as power and life has increased while packaging has decreased, but the potential for malfunction does exist and Richard says he is proud of the work this committee has done.

"RTCA brings together experts from all over and it's this diversified expertise—the regulatory side, the FAA, AIRBUS and Boeing, small aircraft representatives, battery manufacturers, and battery experts—that came up with these standards," said Richard. "Sometimes you'll see heated discussions and that means safer products for aircraft. Ultimately, everyone wants to have the safest products."

Richard was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States in the mid-1970's.  He studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Irvine, while working for Hughes Aircraft.  After graduation, Richard began his career with Boeing, first as a systems engineer working on flight critical systems, and then as the Systems and Equipment Designated Engineering Representative to the FAA. He also works on essential and non-essential systems including In-flight Entertainment Systems, camera and emergency lighting systems and the use of both rechargeable and non-rechargeable lithium batteries.