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Report Studies Link between Vibration and Battery Fires

The July 24 report by the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) on the Sept. 3, 2010, crash of a UPS Boeing 747 in Dubai urges operators of the Boeing freighter to consider the role aircraft vibrations and the acoustical energy they generate might play in onboard lithium-ion battery fires. While GCAA investigators suspect an onboard battery fire brought down the aircraft, they did not pinpoint the cause in their conclusions.

The GCAA said the FAA, working with the European Aviation Safety Agency and Boeing, should evaluate the Class E cargo compartments of freighter/combi Boeing 747s for a phenomenon called “structural acoustic coupling,” which might cause instability in lithium battery electrolytes. The GCAA also urges the NTSB, FAA and EASA to test lithium batteries to determine their ignition properties when subjected to external sources of mechanical energy.

In October 2010 the FAA issued a safety alert warning operators that Halon 1311 is ineffective in fighting fires that ignite in large quantities of lithium-ion batteries such as those carried in cargo containers. The FAA subsequently restricted carriage of lithium batteries in bulk on passenger flights.



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