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ICAO to consider new safety standards for air transport of lithium batteries

The International Civil Aviation Organisation is to consider new safety standards for air transport of lithium batteries in the wake of increased concern over the potential for in-flight fires.

Following a meeting in Montreal in February, the organisation’s dangerous goods panel has put forward recommendations that large shipments of batteries be treated and labelled as dangerous, and that shippers be trained to prepare them correctly.

The standards also involve airlines performing acceptance checks and pre-loading inspections, while pilots would be notified of the location of any battery shipment on board an aircraft.

Such provisions, if approved by the ICAO Air Navigation Commission, would come into effect from the beginning of 2013.

The transport of lithium batteries has been a discussion point for several years, but the loss of two Boeing 747-400Fs – a UPS jet in Dubai and an Asiana aircraft near Jeju – to in-flight fire in the space of 10 months has intensified the debate, as both had been carrying batteries.

After the Dubai incident, Transport Canada, the US Federal Aviation Administration and the UK Civil Aviation Authority analysed the likelihood of further fire accidents to US-registered aircraft. The assessment – based on five previous accidents – predicted six accidents, at least four battery-related, in the 10 years to 2020.

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