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Why All The Talk About Lithium Batteries On Aircraft?

October 9th, 2007 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: DOT/UN, HazMat, Safety

In my June 2007 Newsletter, I wrote about the DOT taking regulatory action to insure the safe transport of lithium batteries aboard aircraft. As a result of this article, many readers have called asking why lithium batteries are drawing so much attention from the DOT. In the June Newsletter, I referenced two incidents in which transportation vehicles (in the air and on the road) were involved in fires that started as a result of the lithium batteries on board. What most airline passengers don‘t know is that since 2005, there have been at least 29 incidents (smoke and/or fire) related to aircraft cargo and baggage in the US alone. We’ve been fortunate that these incidents were discovered in time to avert a catastrophe, but here are just a few of the incidents logged in by the DOT and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration): 1) a ramp worker removed a checked bag that was on fire when loading a passenger aircraft — on fire was a battery-pack for a Sony video game; 2) on a domestic passenger flight that was taking off, smoke poured out of an overhead bin that when opened spewed smoke and flames. The flight made an emergency landing and flight attendants were able to extinguish the fire which was caused by loose batteries packed in a bag with audio-video equipment; 3) on an international flight, a passenger found that the battery-powered photographic flash in his bag had burnt holes in some of his clothing. To date, the battery related incidents have gone relatively unnoticed by the traveling public so it is prudent that DOT establish packing and packaging regulations to address this growing concern.

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