Airlines: No rechargeable batteries

2015-03-03 22:25
In this image taken from video footage of AMVID via APTN, flames rise from the wreckage of a Tu-134 aircraft which crashed on a highway in Petrozavodsk, northwestern Russia. (AMVID via APTN, AP)

In this image taken from video footage of AMVID via APTN, flames rise from the wreckage of a Tu-134 aircraft which crashed on a highway in Petrozavodsk, northwestern Russia. (AMVID via APTN, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Some of the world's largest airlines are banning bulk shipments of rechargeable batteries in the face of mounting evidence of their potential to cause catastrophic in-flight fires.

Citing safety concerns, United Airlines on Monday became the second major US airline to announce it will no longer accept bulk shipments of rechargeable batteries, also called lithium-ion batteries, which are used to power everything from smartphones to laptops to power tools.

Delta Air Lines quietly stopped accepting bulk shipments of the rechargeable batteries on 1 February. Air France has also stopped accepting bulk shipments of the batteries, according to several aviation officials. Officials for the airline didn't immediately respond to an inquiry from The Associated Press.

A third major US carrier, American Airlines, stopped accepting some types of lithium-ion battery shipments on 23 February. But the airline is continuing to accept small packages of batteries grouped together or "overpacked" into a single cargo container. Those kinds of shipments are actually a greater safety concern because they often result in tens of thousands of batteries in one container.

All three airlines said they will continue to accept bulk shipments of equipment containing batteries or in which batteries placed in the same package as equipment. Placing batteries inside equipment like laptops or in the same package as power tools creates additional buffering and is believed to provide added protection, although safety experts say that theory hasn't been fully tested.

Federal Aviation Administration tests over the past year show that when a battery overheats it can cause other nearby batteries to short-circuit and overheat, resulting in a chain reaction.

As the overheating spreads, the batteries emit explosive gases that build up inside the cargo container. Several tests have resulted in fierce explosions that have blown the doors off containers, followed by violent fires.

US and international officials have been slow to adopt safety restrictions that might affect the powerful industries that depend on the batteries. About 4.8 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured in 2013, and production is forecast to reach 8 billion a year by 2025. A battery contains two or more cells.

Lithium batteries dominate the global battery industry because they're cheap to make, lightweight and can hold a lot more energy than other types of batteries.

The tests have placed airlines in a quandary. The shipments are permitted under international safety standards. They are also profitable. And so far, there have been no cargo fires aboard passenger airlines attributed to lithium batteries. But as some airlines ban the shipments, it puts pressure on other airlines to follow suit or appear indifferent to safety risks.

Cargo airlines are continuing to transport the batteries even though they are believed to have either caused or contributed to fires that destroyed two Boeing 747 freighters in recent years, killing their pilots. The pilots of a third freighter managed to escape after landing in Philadelphia, but that plane was also destroyed.

US regulators' hands are tied by a 2012 law that Congress enacted in response to industry lobbying. It prohibits the government from issuing regulations regarding battery shipments that are any more stringent than standards approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency, unless an international investigative agency can show the batteries ignited a fire that destroyed an aircraft.

That's difficult, since in the three cases thus far in which batteries are suspected of causing fires, the planes were too damaged to determine the source of the blaze.


Read more on:    us  |  aviation

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.