Boeing issues lithium-ion battery warning

BoeingAs the debate continues regarding the safety of carrying large shipments of lithium-ion batteries, Boeing issued a warning last week to its customers that flying bulk shipments of the batteries can cause fires capable of destroying large aircraft. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that, from tests the agency has conducted, “the transport of lithium batteries has indicated that it presents a risk.”

The Associated Press reported that Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company urged airlines not to carry the batteries as cargo “until safer methods of packaging and transport are established and implemented.” The FAA issued a statement in May that said current fire-suppression systems on aircraft are unable to suppress or extinguish a fire involving a significant load of the batteries.

Also in May, The International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations, agreed to establish a task force charged with coming up with better, safer ways to package the batteries. If they can’t come up with safe new packaging, it is likely that aviation officials will ban bulk battery shipments in the bellies of passenger aircraft. FAA tests demonstrated that when lithium-ion batteries short circuit, they emit hydrogen and other gasses that build-up. If the gases ignite, they can explode and cause fires that are very difficult to extinguish.

Additionally, the European Shipper’s Council, has stated that it would like to see lithium-ion batteries moved as cargo, but under stricter conditions. Several carriers have already banned bulk shipments of the batteries, including Cathay Pacific, Delta, Air France, United, Cargolux, Qantas and Virgin Australia. Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in laptop computers, mobile phones and similar devices, and it is acceptable to have the batteries in these devices when flying.

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