Citing three separate instances in the last two months of fire, smoke or evidence of fire associated with lithium battery shipments, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is lobbying the US government to ban battery shipments on passenger and cargo aircraft until new regulations are created to ensure safe transport of the batteries.
ALPA has sent a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) outlining the episodes that occurred in Minneapolis, Santo Domingo and Honolulu.
Those incidents were similar to a 2006 fire that destroyed a DC-8 operated by UPS at Philadelphia International Airport. The investigation into that fire triggered six recommendations to PHMSA from the National Transportation Safety Board to analyse the cause of fires involving secondary and primary lithium batteries, and based on that research take necessary action to reduce risks posted by transport of the batteries.
After that incident US regulators in January 2008 instituted a new law forbidding passengers travelling on US airlines to pack spare lithium batteries in checked luggage. The batteries are still allowed in checked bags if they are installed on electronic devices.
ALPA stresses it is not campaigning for new restrictions regulating the items passengers are permitted to bring onboard aircraft, rather the "world's largest non-governmental aviation safety organization is extremely concerned about the risk transporting lithium batteries aboard aircraft as cargo".
The union is pressing the pertinent regulatory agencies to issue an immediate ban on lithium battery shipments to "protect airline passengers, crews and cargo until the proper safety regulations are in place and can be enforced".