Boeing advises passenger airlines not to ship lithium batteries


Photo: SANSA Images

Chicago – A major aircraft manufacturer has joined the effort to keep large quantities of highly flammable lithium-ion batteries out of cargo holds in passenger planes.

Boeing issued a guidance document July 17 that warned its passenger airline customers about the dangers of shipping lithium-ion batteries. The batteries could ignite and cause fires large enough to destroy passenger planes, the manufacturer stated.

Lithium batteries and cells are found in devices such as cell phones and personal computers. Since 2006, at least three cargo planes carrying bulk shipments of lithium batteries have crashed or caught fire. In March, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said, “It’s only a matter of time until we lose another plane.”

When contacted by Safety+Health, a Boeing spokesperson provided the following statement:

“We have been working with the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations and agree with them that operators of passenger airplanes should not carry those batteries in the cargo hold until safer methods of packaging and transport are established and implemented. We formally relayed that message to the airlines.”

The Air Line Pilots Association, International, echoed Boeing’s concerns. In a recent white paper, Washington-based ALPA called on the United States to classify lithium batteries as hazardous materials.