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GCAA: 747 vibration risk to lithium-ion cargo?

Air accident investigators at the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates are urging the industry to examine the role of vibration in large aircraft to detemine whether it could contribute to lithium-ion battery cargo fires.

The release today of the final report concerning the fatal crash of a United Parcel Service (UPS) B747-400 in Dubai on September 3, 2010, details the facts concerning the accident, and makes recommendations addressing air cargo fire safety.

The UPS Boeing 747-400 flying between Dubai International Airport and Cologne Bonn Airport crashed close to Dubai airport, killing the two crew members.

In October 2010, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a safety alert for operators highlighting the fact that the cargo on board that flight contained a large quantity of lithium-ion batteries and that Halon 1301 had been inefficient in fighting the fires. The FAA subsequently issued a restriction on the carrying of lithium batteries in bulk on passenger flights.

The GCAA’s final report states that even now its investigators have been unable to determine the initiating action that resulted in the cargo fire.

“One line of testing outside the scope of this investigation was the investigation of the possible effect of structural-acoustic coupling to determine the acoustic principle sources and transmission paths for
airframe junction vibration transmission, the effect of multi-frequency phased vibration of the fuselage structure caused by tonal disturbances, either engine derived or by airbourne structural excitations, affecting the modal characteristics and fuselage dynamic responses,” states the report.

Structural-acoustic coupling phenomenon in an aircraft fuselage is a known characteristic of aeroelastic structures and yet the vibration and acoustic signatures of large aircraft cargo areas are not well understood.

The GCAA said the FAA working with European colleagues at EASA and Boeing should evaluate the Boeing 747 Freighter/Combi aircraft Class E cargo compartment for a structural acoustic coupling phenomena in the aircraft fuselage.
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