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Lithium battery concerns re-emerge

An incident at Sydney Airport has again shone the light on the topic of lithium batteries and the safety concerns related to their carriage on aircraft.

The incident occurred on board the aircraft while still on the ground, and saw a battery carried by the passenger in their carry-on exploding.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia has emphasised the importance of packing dangerous items correctly in recent years, with the widespread increase in carriage of personal electronic items on board aircraft.

This incident comes after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council, with representatives from 36 States, adopted a new safety measure which prohibited (on an interim basis) a;; shipments of Lithium-ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft.

“Safety is always our most fundamental priority in international civil aviation,” stressed Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, ICAO Council President. “This interim prohibition will continue to be in force as separate work continues through ICAO on a new lithium battery packaging performance standard, currently expected by 2018.”

The Council’s decision has been effective 1 April, 2016. It pertains only to Lithium-ion batteries shipped as cargo on passenger aircraft, and not to those contained in personal electronic devices carried by passengers or crew, as was the case in the incident at Sydney Airport. It came subsequent to extensive reviews undertaken by the ICAO Air Navigation Commission, and the UN agency’s Dangerous Goods, Flight Operations, and Airworthiness panels.

The prohibiting of Lithium-ion cargo shipments on passenger aircraft has been eagerly awaited by aircraft manufacturer and pilots associations, which have been the most vocal advocates for the new safety measure.

Avlaw Aviation Consulting has conducted risk assessments for airlines to implement robust safety processes to ensure dangerous goods are carried in accordance with local regulations and best practices.

For more on this topic, click here to read an article featured in Australian Aviation.