The US FAA has issued a safety alert recommending that airlines adopt new procedures to reduce the risk of onboard fire posed by lithium batteries.

Airlines should ask customers to identify bulk shipments on airway bills and store such items in Class C cargo compartments, the FAA says. The agency also asks airlines to re-examine their own practices for transporting lithium batteries, as well as pay "special attention" to existing regulations.

The recommendations apply only to lithium batteries transported as cargo. Passengers and crewmembers can continue to use the power source without notifying the airline.

The safety alert was issued as the agency considers issuing a final rule with new proposals to reduce the risks of transporting such batteries. The proposed ruling is now under review by the Office of Management and Budget, which the administrative arm of the White House.

Non-peer-reviewed results of a study by the FAA Tech Centre show that lithium batteries can enter a condition called thermal runaway and reach temperatures over 593ºC (1,100ºF).

The safety alert comes one month after UPS flight 006, a Boeing 747-400, crashed in Dubai.

 UPS 747


"Investigation of the crash is still underway, and the cause of the crash has not been determined," the FAA says. "We are aware, however, that the plane's cargo did include large quantities of lithium batteries and believe it prudent to advise operators of that fact."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news