Pilots want lithium battery ban

Aug 26, 2009
Pilots want lithium battery ban <!–10 min–>

The union emphasised that it is not seeking a ban on passengers carrying electronic devices containing lithium batteries, such as laptop computers, onto planes. — ST PHOTO: SHAHRIYA YAHAYA

WASHINGTON – THE world’s largest pilots union said on Tuesday it wants bulk shipments of lithium batteries and products containing the batteries immediately banned from passenger and cargo planes because they can start a fire.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it is not prepared to take emergency action on the issue.

In seeking a federal ban, the Air Line Pilots Association pointed to three incidents since June in which lithium battery shipments apparently caused fires aboard US planes.

On Aug 14, a fire in a shipment of 1,000 e-cigarettes – a battery-powered device that provides inhaled doses of nicotine – was discovered in the cargo compartment of a plane after it landed at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport. Each cigarette contained a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

In another instance, a package of cell phone batteries shipped from Michigan to the Dominican Republican was found smoking and smoldering after a United Parcel Service plane landed in Santo Domingo on July 15. The package documentation indicated ‘used batteries – non-haz.’ A burned package containing a lithium-ion ‘bicycle-power device’ was discovered in the cargo of a UPS flight from Ontario, California, to Honolulu on June 18, the union said.

‘The evidence of a clear and present danger is mounting,’ Mark Rogers, director of the union’s dangerous good programme, said in a statement. ‘We need an immediate ban on these dangerous goods to protect airline passengers, crews and cargo.’

The union emphasised that it is not seeking a ban on passengers carrying electronic devices containing lithium batteries onto planes, such as laptop computers, cell phones, and cameras. Instead, the union’s concern is with cargo containing multiple batteries, either loose or inside products.

If a battery short-circuits, it can catch fire and that fire can ignite other batteries.

The Federal Aviation Administration no longer permits large, pallet-size shipments of lithium-metal batteries on passenger planes. Airline passengers are not allowed to pack loose lithium batteries in checked luggage. Consumer electronics containing lithium batteries are still allowed in carry-on and checked luggage.

However, passengers are limited to two spare lithium batteries in carry-on baggage. — AP



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