Safety Concerns Prompt US Airlines to Ban Battery Shipments

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According to FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), overheating of lithium-ion batteries can lead to major fires and disastrous results. FAA conducted to tests to verify this fact. They filled out a cargo with cartridge heater as well as 5000 lithium-ion batteries. The heater was added with the purpose of stimulating overheating of a single battery. The amount of heat generated by the cartridge started a chain reaction among other batteries leading to an increase of temperature to 600°C. This lead to an explosion and at the end blew up the container and set the entire cargo box on fire. FAA also conducted another test following this test, after couple of months, which produced similar results regardless of having fire-suppression agent in the container.Delta airlines already put a stop on the bulk battery shipment in the month of February. Aviation officials opine that it was the lithium-ion batteries, which contributed to the fire, which destroyed two Boeing 747 cargo planes and killing all the crewmembers. In an official statement, United Airlines stated that their main concerns during the transport of dangerous goods are the safety of the customers, their belongings, and the environment around them. United Airlines is the second largest US airlines, which announced that they would no longer be transporting bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries.

cargoIncrease in number of plane crashes:

Experts believe that these batteries are the main source of several plane fires in the past couple of years. In 2010, UPS Airlines operated a Boeing 747 cargo plane developed in-flight fire leading to crashing in a depopulated area in Dubai. Both crewmembers were killed in this accident. FAA investigation revealed that the cargo plane was carrying huge amount of lithium-ion batteries on-board. In 2011, Asiana Airlines cargo plane, which was carrying nearly 880lb of lithium batteries crash-landed in Korea Strait killing the crewmembers. Even though the main cause of fire was never ascertained, the International Civil Aviation Organization recommended new safety standards for carrying these kinds of batteries. In 2006, due to fire an emergency landing by was made by a UPS cargo plane at the Philadelphia International Airport. No one was harmed in this case. Even in this case the cause of fire was never known but the National Transportation Safety Board put forth recommendation pertaining to the transportation of the lithium-ion batteries. Apart from this, reports suggest that the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was also carrying nearly 440 of lithium-ion batteries. This added to all the mystery pertaining to the disappearance of the cargo last year.

What are the new rules?

Airlines are starting to feel the pressure due to increased focus on the battery safety, prompting the technology industry to develop safer methods of battery transportation. Current production of Lithium-ion batteries is expected to be around 8 million by 2025. These batteries are used for powering laptops, phones, and digital devices. According to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization safety standards, the transportation of these batteries on a passenger plane is expected to be limited to being a handful in single box.

FAA also revealed that lithium-metal batteries (not rechargeable) and are used in calculators and cameras will catch fire faster when compared to other versions. UN has already banned the shipment of these batteries on passenger planed in 2014.

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