The PRBA has declared support for the framework for new rules adopted by a U.N.-backed advisory panel, intended to prevent the spread of flames, explosive vapors and hazardous fragments in the cargo holds of commercial aircraft.
The move follows the recognition that lithium batteries, when packed together, can overheat or catch fire if they are damaged or experience short circuits. Lithium
batteries have been implicated in several fires that have damaged air freighter jets in the past decade.
George Kerchner, the PRBA’s executive director, has requested a meeting with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “to discuss the most efficient path forward to drafting and implementing” proposed changes".
The PRBA’s statement indicates that battery makers expect fundamental changes – potentially including how individual power cells are packaged and how much charge they are allowed to carry – when lithium batteries are prepared for airborne shipments in the future. So far none of the proposed rules apply to rechargeable lithium batteries inside laptops, smartphones or other personal electronic devices carried by passengers.
The latest move toward more-robust packaging follows recommnedations from a panel of experts assembled by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an arm of the U.N. The next meeting of the U.N. panel is scheduled for October 2015 and will see the proposed packaging standards discussed. Pilot union representatives are expected to propose that ICAO impose a global ban on all lithium battery shipments in the cargo holds of passenger planes.
This year a number of international airlines have restricted or stopped accepting bulk shipments of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. In July, Boeing Co., warned all airline customers that transporting bulk shipments of lithium batteries in passenger jets posed unacceptable fire hazards.
The framework agreement includes requirements that “no hazardous amount of flame is allowed outside the package". Under the proposed standards, the external surface temperature of the package cannot exceed 100 degrees Celsius, no hazardous fragments will be able to burst out of the package and the packaging must “maintain structural integrity” even if power cells are burning inside.
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