Cessna Aircraft has signed a contract with A123Systems to purchase lithium ion batteries for the an undisclosed application for a new business jet and possibly for retrofit into the existing line of Citation jets after certification sometime after second quarter next year.

The company plans to use the batteries for engine start and for emergency back-up power, the first such application of the devices in the business aviation sector.

Lithium ion batteries are lighter, require less maintenance and charge more quickly than traditional lead-acid of nickel cadmium-based aircraft batteries, says A123. Cessna plans to continue offering lead or nickel cadmium batteries as well, according to the company.

Initial deliveries of the batteries to Cessna will be in the late second quarter of 2008. Cessna has not revealed the size of the contract, when it might begin certification efforts or whether it has made a firm decision to proceed with the technology as a battery option.

On the commercial side, the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year imposed special certification requirements on Airbus and Boeing for using the batteries for multiple purposes on the A380 and 787, the first commercial aviation applications for the devices.

New safety features called for by the FAA include battery sensing and warning systems to monitor battery temperatures as well as mechanisms to automatically disconnect the battery from its charging source if problems are detected.

Source: Flight International