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Lithium batteries in portable devices can endanger commercial aircraft, says standards group

Tue, 2012-02-14 10:58 AM
By: Jacob Goodwin
An industry-government standards-setting organization will discuss on Feb. 28-29 the possible hazards associated with small- or medium-sized rechargeable lithium batteries mounted permanently aboard commercial aircraft – which power aircraft lighting, avionics equipment and other emergency and standby systems – but it will not discuss similar hazards associated with lithium batteries used within portable electronic devices, such as laptops, DVD players, cellular phones and other consumer products that are carried onto aircraft.

There have been documented incidents of such lithium batteries catching fire in both permanent and portable settings.

A subcommittee of RTCA, Inc. (organized in 1935 and formerly known as the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) will address steps that can be taken to make the permanent installation of lithium batteries on commercial airplanes safer, but the RTCA special committee (SC-225) has specifically announced that the thorny question of the use of lithium batteries in portable electronic devices (PEDs) lies outside its jurisdiction.

“There was a spirited discussion on the hazards of PEDs containing Li-ion batteries,” the special committee acknowledged in the minutes of a meeting it held on Nov. 30, 2011. The committee reached a consensus that it should add the following note to the document it is preparing regarding the use of such batteries installed permanently on aircraft:


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