FAA issues safety alert on lithium batteries
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday alerted airlines of the results of new research on risks associated with transporting lithium batteries as cargo on aircraft, and recommended actions to reduce those risks.
In a Safety Alert for Operators the FAA summarized recent research, which shows that lithium metal (non-rechargeable) and lithium-ion (rechargeable) batteries are highly flammable and capable of igniting during air transport under certain circumstances.
FAA noted that while investigation of the cause of the Sept. 3 crash of UPS Flight 006 is still under investigation, “the plane's cargo did include large quantities of lithium batteries and believe it prudent to advise operators of that fact.”
FAA research also indicates that Halon 1301, the suppression agent found in Class C cargo compartments, is ineffective in suppressing lithium metal battery fires.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with FAA, is considering the best course of action to address the risk posed by lithium batteries.
The alert lays out recommendations airlines can institute when transporting lithium batteries. These include:
' Request customers to identify bulk shipments of excepted lithium batteries by information on airway bills and other documents provided by shippers offering shipments of lithium batteries.
' Where feasible and appropriate, stow bulk shipments of lithium batteries in Class C cargo compartments or in locations where alternative fire suppression is available.
' Evaluate train, stow, and communicate protocols in operation with respect to the transportation of lithium batteries in the event of an unrelated fire.
' Pay special attention to ensure careful handling and compliance with regulations covering the air transportation of Class 9 hazardous materials, including lithium batteries.