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Halt to battery cargo urged


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A burned package aboard a flight shipment discovered in Honolulu is one of the reasons why the Air Line Pilots Association is calling for a suspension of cargo carrying lithium-ion batteries.

“;Those type of batteries can overheat and explode and cause a fire,”; Association President John Prater said yesterday in a telephone interview.

There were no injuries or fatalities on the UPS flight on June 18 from Philadelphia to Ontario, Calif., and then to Honolulu.

But initial reports indicated the package containing the lithium-ion bicycle power device was burned, ALPA said.

In his Aug. 20 letter to federal transportation officials, Prater said the cargo transport of lithium-ion batteries should be suspended, pending final review and rule-making for safe shipment.

Prater, whose group represents pilots for 36 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, cited other fire incidents, including a shipment of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in Minneapolis on Aug. 14 and lithium cell phone batteries on a shipment in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on July 15.

Prater said the fires had similarities to a Feb. 7, 2006, accident involving a UPS DC-8 at Philadelphia.

“;Following the investigation of that accident, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a number of recommendations addressing lithium battery transport, including a recommendation to fully regulate these batteries as dangerous goods. ... Since the UPS accident, the Federal Aviation Administration has documented 26 additional incidents involving lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries in air transportation,”; Prater said in the letter.

In the interview, Prater said ALPA was mainly worried about cargo shippers' transport of lithium batteries in aircraft holds.

He said his group would not want passengers shipping lithium batteries in their suitcases.

He said most people take their computers containing lithium batteries as carry-ons and that the flight crews were trained to deal with extinguishing fires in passenger areas.

Federal transportation officials involved in developing safety rules for the air transport of hazardous materials were unavailable for comment.