Your gadget batteries endanger planes, says Boeing

Brit pilots agree: Get gizmos' batts out of holds

Boeing has decided that lithium-ion batteries, the engine-room of the tech gadget boom, are too dangerous to haul around in bulk on cargo planes.

The company has warned operators of its aircraft not to carry bulk shipments of batteries until logistics companies design better transport packaging and shipping procedures.

America's Federal Aviation Authority agrees, and over the weekend reiterated a warning first given in March that bulk battery shipments posed a potential risk to airliners.

If a battery develops a short circuit, the FAA explained, the build-up of hydrogen and other gases as surrounding batteries are also heated can defeat a plane's halon fire suppression system.

In May, the FAA gave this presentation to an airline fire protection meeting in Germany, explaining tests both on individual batteries and a bulk shipment.

FAA Battery Fire Test

Halon can't handle it: the FAA's battery fire test

It concluded that the total failure energy of Li-ion batteries is almost twice as much electrochemical energy as they can deliver.

A number of airlines were ahead of Boeing's announcement, with the Wall Street Journal listing Delta, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Air France as no longer carrying bulk shipments in the cargo holds of passenger flights.

While the FAA can warn operators of the dangers of Li-ion batteries, a law passed in 2012 means it can't regulate battery transport unless international regulators act first.

A week ago, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) issued a separate statement calling for all passengers' Li-ion-powered gadgets to be carried as cabin luggage.

BALPA also wants regulators to specifically ban the batteries being carried in cargo holds. ®

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