NTSB throws another monkey wrench at lithium battery issue

ToTheRescue_IMG2The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has chimed in on the ongoing lithium battery debate. On Tuesday of this week, it recommended that lithium batteries be physically separated from other flammable materials carried as cargo, and to establish maximum loading density requirements designed to restrict the quantities of lithium batteries and flammable, hazardous materials on board an aircraft.

The board made these recommendations after analysis of the July 28, 2011, in-flight fire and crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 991, which went down about 80 miles west of South Korea’s Jeju International Airport. The NTSB was involved in the investigation, which was headed by the Republic of Korea’s Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board.

The recommendations were made before the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which can’t generally issue regulations for the safe transportation of lithium cells and batteries that are more restrictive than international regulations. However, if it finds credible evidence of a deficiency in the international regulations, the U.S. Congress has given PHMSA authority to act.

Unlike the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the NTSB strongly believes the circumstances and findings in the Asiana incident show the need for new cargo segregation and loading density requirements.

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