The Air Line Pilots Association is calling on the U.S. government to prohibit shipments of lithium batteries on passenger and all-cargo aircraft until new regulations are in place to ensure their safe transport.
In an Aug. 20 letter to Cynthia Douglass, acting deputy administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, ALPA’s president, Capt. John Prater, pointed to three recent incidents as evidence of the urgent need to prohibit lithium battery shipments.
The incidents involving fire, smoke, or evidence of fire associated with battery shipments took place in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minn., Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
“ALPA has long called for regulations to ensure that safety is the first priority in transporting shipments of lithium batteries aboard airliners,” said First Officer Mark Rogers, director of ALPA’s Dangerous Goods Programs. “Now, the evidence of a clear and present danger is mounting. We need an immediate ban on these dangerous goods to protect airline passengers, crews, and cargo.”
Following a severe battery fire in 2006 aboard a DC-8 in Philadelphia, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended full regulation of lithium batteries as dangerous goods. But they are not yet treated as other hazardous materials.
Lithium batteries provide essential power for laptop computers, cell phones, flashlights, and cameras. ALPA did not call for restrictions on what passengers can carry but for improved requirements for transporting lithium batteries aboard aircraft as cargo.
Since 2004, ALPA has urged the Department of Transportation to fully regulate lithium batteries as dangerous goods, including requiring appropriate packaging, labeling, marking, testing, and pilot notification.
“ALPA calls on the agencies charged with protecting the public from hazardous materials 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,” said Prater. “If we are not able to secure these protections for the traveling public through swift regulatory action, we will ask Congress to immediately intervene to ensure the safe shipment of lithium batteries.”
Contact Thomas L. Gallagher at email@example.com.