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Cargolux bans lithium-ion batteries after fire analysis

Freight operator Cargolux is preparing to suspend transport of lithium-ion battery consignments in light of recent re-assessment of the potential hazards they pose.

Cargolux has reviewed data from ICAO, the US FAA and Boeing centred on the effectiveness of on-board extinguishing systems against lithium battery fires.

Last August the FAA presented the results of a full-scale fire test, using a Boeing 727 freighter, to an air safety forum.

The test showed that containment of a lithium-ion fire on the main deck was “marginal” while a blaze involving lithium metal cells was not contained.

Cargolux had already banned the carriage of lithium metal cells.

But it says that analysis of fire-extinguishing system capabilities and the temperature that lithium-ion batteries can reach have spurred the airline to impose a temporary suspension on transport of such batteries from 1 May.

“To lift the ban as soon as possible, Cargolux will assess different options to identify if technology exists – or if new technology can be developed – in order to make the transportation of bulk shipments of lithium batteries safe,” says the carrier.

Cargolux operates a fleet of 23 Boeing 747-8 and 747-400 freighters. Lithium batteries are suspected to have been involved in two fatal cargo 747 fires in the past five years.

Lithium-ion batteries contained in other equipment will be exempt from the suspension, says the carrier.

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