The tragic crash of an Asiana Airlines freighter last month off the southern coast of South Korea is sure to once again ignite debate over the carriage of lithium batteries aboard aircraft. While the cause of the crash has not yet been determined the fact the B747-400F experienced an onboard fire combined with the fact it was carrying cargo which included shipments of lithium batteries is simply a clear smoking gun for most observers. If it is indeed found to be the case, it will be the second such incident this year, after a UPS B747-400F went down in Dubai after experiencing a cargo hold fire which is believed to have emanated from shipments of lithium batteries.
It is clearly time for this issue to be dealt with as the volume of these batteries is steadily on the rise as our lives increasingly become reliant on power-hungry electronic gadgets. Add to this the rising trend of Internet shopping and the potential problem becomes obvious. Speaking personally, I recently ordered a new lithium battery for my computer which arrived by air from Hong Kong with the packing invoice listing it simply as “electronic gadget”.
The evidence of this clear and present danger is becoming impossible to ignore. Statistics from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for instance, show the number of incidents of battery-related cargo and baggage fires has risen from only five in the period 1991-95, to 55 in the period 2006-11. And these, the FAA cautions, are only the ones it knows of.