The discussion on how to meet the demands of the world’s pilots unions as to coming up with a standard and firm packaging solution for the transport of volatile lithium batteries seems to have come to a dead-end.
Protection from internal fire risks is not enough
The ICAO ban on the carriage of lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft is still in force and it looks like that it will remain this way for years to come.
Ironically, the ban does not apply to the carriage of the same commodity on freighter aircraft.
One has to wonder what clever wig though that one up and allows this ruling to stay in place considering that it’s almost certain that the loss of three freighters and their crews can be put down to fires on board resulting from lithium shipments.
A new working group, named G27 was formed in 2015 by the cross-industry standards body, SAE International.
This group was given the task of developing a watertight specification for the packaging of lithium batteries.
Furthermore, ICAO would then take up this new design, introduce and mandate it for airlines, eventually allowing them to again transport lithium components in the passenger aircraft bellies.
It seems however that various regulators and aviation safety experts are pessimistic about whether the packaging standard (when complete) would be enough to cancel the present ban.
Lithium battery air carriage - a never-ending story
The discussion has turned in the direction that it’s not just the packaging which has to be strong enough to contain a possible fire or explosive reaction by the batteries.
There was a hot discussion at this year’s Air Safety Forum which is set up by the Air Line Pilots Association.
The main theme there was that it is not just the packaging, but the commodity itself which poses even more of a risk.
Correct packaging is very important, but not the solution.
Ensuring that this commodity is no longer volatile when being transported is more important.
The forum showed that the working group is finding it extremely difficult to come up with a (packaging) wording which can be seen as an effective standard for all concerned.
The main aim is determine how to ensure that lithium batteries cannot overheat and cause a fire risk.
So, the discussion goes on and on.
To be honest - have we not known about all of this since some years already?
John Mc Donagh
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