AMERICAS: FAA issues lithium battery alert

US aviation regulators, as part of a safety alert stressing fire hazards posed by lithium batteries, have urged airlines to take special precautions when transporting such shipments. The Federal Aviation Administration’s warning reflects escalating concern about the flammability of bulk shipments of widely used rechargeable batteries in the holds of cargo planes after a recent […]


US aviation regulators, as part of a safety alert stressing fire hazards posed by lithium batteries, have urged airlines to take special precautions when transporting such shipments. The Federal Aviation Administration’s warning reflects escalating concern about the flammability of bulk shipments of widely used rechargeable batteries in the holds of cargo planes after a recent UPS freighter crash in Dubai which was carrying a large quantity of the batteries. The FAA’s action, while it stops short of ordering packaging, handling or paperwork changes, provides the clearest indication yet that the US is moving to finalise mandatory rules to reduce such air-cargo hazards. The FAA’s alert, intended for all US airlines and charter operators, emphasises that recent research highlights the threat of such batteries overheating and creating a so-called “thermal runaway”. That’s when batteries not involved in an initial fire may ignite and spread the flames, which the FAA said could end up “creating a risk of a catastrophic event”. The agency’s safety bulletin also indicates that current fire-suppression chemicals used on most commerical aircraft have been demonstrated as “ineffective in controlling” fires involving certain types of lithium batteries. The majority of commercial aircraft don’t have advanced fire-suppression systems in their main cargo holds.