The Lobby For Lithium Batteries On Aircraft

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The Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA) Wednesday took aim at a recent FA study about the risks posed to aircraft by lithium batteries, calling it "scare-mongering" and distracting from important safety issues. The FAA's Freighter Airplane Cargo Fire Risk Model (PDF) assessed the likely number of U.S.-registered fire accidents through 2020. The answer, according to the study, is about one every other year. The FAA's findings assumed batteries contributed to two key incidents it used to develop its risk model. According to the PRBA, "no facts are presented that indicate any involvement of batteries in the incidents." When the batteries do burn, there is little doubt about their destructive potential.

"It's like a fireworks display," an engineer told Bloomberg news. "They explode. They shoot fireballs. They emit smoke. Sometimes they spray flaming liquid," the engineer said. Airline pilot unions are pushing for the FAA to take seriously that potential threat. Early in December, those unions made their concerns clear, stating that existing standards are "generally recognized as inadequate." The comments came after news reports that a deal struck as part of negotiations for long-term funding of the FAA blocked new rules. Manufacturers that include Apple and Panasonic say those new regulations, originally proposed by the Obama administration, could cost them $1.1 billion per year. The PRBA's current rebuttal of the September 2011 safety study makes clear its position should the topic be revisited during new talks regarding FAA funding. A current funding extension expires in January.