The aviation industry wants to abolish transportation of lithium ion batteries on passenger planes

Transporting Li-ion batteries on passenger planes hazardous

Transporting lithium ion batteries on passenger planes poses fire risk and should be abolished until safer transportation methods are developed, said Boeing.

According to the American aerospace giant, high-density packages of lithium ion batteries, such as those used in cell phones and laptops, could put passengers’ safety at risk due to their high flammability and resistance to common fire extinguishers.

Boeing is part of an industry group including other plane makers such as Bombardier and Airbus, that recently described the risk associated with transporting lithium ion batteries as ‘unacceptable’.

Boeing told Reuters that the risk is ‘continually increasing (and) requires action to be taken’.

"The Boeing Company supports and advocates for global harmonized requirements related to the air transport of batteries,” the firm said in a statement. “We support efforts to develop effective protective packaging materials to facilitate the safe shipment of lithium batteries as cargo."

The main problem of the batteries is a chemical called Halon 1301, which is responsible for the fact that a fire involving larger quantities of lithium ion batteries is virtually impossible to put out.

Boeing endorsed recommendations outlined in a recently published report by the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industry Associations and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations. In addition to requesting shipments of high density packages of lithium ion batteries on passenger planes to be suspended, the report also urges the industry to develop better packaging and shipment requirements to carry the batteries on both, cargo and passenger planes.

The report will be considered by the United Nations' aviation standards-setting body, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), during an April meeting.

ICAO said that to take effect, the recommendations would need to be approved by its dangerous goods panel in October, and then by a broader air safety council next year. If approved, they would be included in the 2017-2018 edition of ICAO's technical instructions for dangerous goods transport.

The US banned carrying lithium metal batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft in 2008, unless they are shipped with or in equipment, according to the US Department of Transportation.

But lithium ion batteries are allowed as cargo on both passenger and freight aircraft as long as the packages do not exceed five kilograms the agency said.

Lithium ion batteries were among cargo carried by the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in March last year after diverting from its route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The presence of the flammable batteries prompted speculations fire in the cargo hold may have been the cause of the so far unexplained accident.

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