UN Panel Wants To Ban Li-On Battery Shipments In The Hold Of Passenger Aeroplanes

UN Panel Wants to Ban Li-On Battery Shipments in the Hold of Passenger Aeroplanes

Li-on batteries can, in some circumstances, be really rather dangerous. A UN panel agrees: the agency has recommended banning rechargeable li-on battery shipments from the holds of passenger aeroplanes. The Associated Press reports that the UN's International Civilian Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is nervous about li-on batteries catching fire, which could ultimately lead to the destruction of an aeroplane. However, it also cedes that if new safety packaging were to be made that guarded against li-on batteries bursting open and into flames, it would be happy for the ban to be lifted.

The debate is not a new one. In fact, the ICAO stated just last year that shipping li-on batteries via passenger aircraft was an "unacceptable risk". At the time the FAA agreed. The UN rejected the ICAO's recommendations late last year, but the Associated Press report seems to suggest that the proposals remain up for debate.

The suggestions wouldn't affect the shipment of li-on batteries via cargo aeroplanes or carry-on luggage, of course. Perhaps more striking would be a ban on bulk shipment of li-on batteries by air, period. As the AP points out, there have been a series of accidents aboard cargo aircraft — resulting in four deaths — that are believed to be attributable to li-on battery fires.

As for the ICAO's recommendations, they will be considered by its top-level council later this month. For now, the future shipment of li-on cells by air remains unclear.

[Associated Press via The Guardian via The Verge]

Image by tsuna72


Comments

    So accidents on cargo aircraft causes a ban on passenger aircraft only? If it's that big a risk why not ban bulk shipments on all aircraft?

      @tonyintsv :

      Accidents on cargo aircraft show what *can* happen on passenger aircraft. Fortunately we haven't had a Li-Ion cargo fire on a passenger aircraft yet.

      I suspect (in a cynical way) that allowing Li-Ion shipments on cargo flights is because, while the loss of 2 crew + aircraft is bad, the loss of 300/350/400/?? lives + aircraft is totally unacceptable.

      Cargo aircraft can use more expensive (but too big to fit into passenger aircraft) cargo unit dividers.

      They can also use far more drastic fire suppression tools that could not be done on passenger aircraft.

        Doesn't matter. The only way an they could reasonably extinguish even a small fire on an airplane would be to depressurize the cabin because the only fire fighting systems on an aircraft are for the fuel tanks and engines. However, would the atmosphere at 30000 feet be enough to extinguish a lithium fire? I don't think so. And even if it was enough to slow it down, as soon as the pilots started their procedures for all emergencies, it would just flare back up because right after calling mayday or at least letting air traffic control know that something is wrong, the next step is to drop to below 10000 feet, at which time the fire wiould reignite and plane crashes anyway.

        The risks are the same regardless. The difference is the number of lives lost. The UN has decided that 2 lives is an acceptable risk for peole to have their modern conveniences.

    be nice if the batteries had a safe mode where dividing strips separate the cells, presumably these are shipments of new batteries over a certain AH rating so the dividing strip can be part of the packaging and the cells are chemically separated.
    Still, this may make them more bulky and probably not feasible for some reason.

    Not surprised at all by this, since these things have already killed two pilots and completely destroyed a 747. I just found out about UPS Flight 6 a couple of weeks ago. Scary stuff and you most definitely would not want something like that happening on a passenger plane.

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