August 25, 2009
ALPA Calls for Temporary Ban on Battery Shipments on Airliners
Recent dangerous incidents reveal immediate need to prohibit lithium battery shipments until safety regulations are in place
WASHINGTON – The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) is calling on the U.S. government to prohibit shipments of lithium batteries on passenger and all-cargo aircraft until new regulations are in place to ensure the safe transport of these hazardous materials.
“ALPA has long called for regulations to ensure that safety is the first priority in transporting shipments of lithium batteries aboard airliners,” said First Officer Mark Rogers, director of ALPA’s Dangerous Goods Programs. “Now, the evidence of a clear and present danger is mounting. We need an immediate ban on these dangerous goods to protect airline passengers, crews, and cargo.”
In an August 20, 2009, letter sent to Cynthia Douglass, acting deputy administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), ALPA’s President, Capt. John Prater, pointed to three recent incidents as proof positive of the urgent need to prohibit lithium battery shipments.
During just the past two months, fire, smoke, or evidence of fire associated with battery shipments has occurred aboard three separate U.S. airliners. The incidents, which took place in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Honolulu, Hawaii, were similar to a 2006 battery fire aboard a DC-8 in Philadelphia, Pa. In that accident, the fire was severe and it prompted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to recommend the full regulation of these types of batteries as dangerous goods.
Lithium batteries provide essential power for millions of Americans every day as they use laptop computers, cell phones, flashlights, and cameras. ALPA is not calling for new restrictions on what passengers are permitted to bring aboard aircraft, but the world’s largest non-governmental aviation safety organization is extremely concerned about the risk from transporting lithium batteries aboard aircraft as cargo.
ALPA has long advocated for improved transport requirements for lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries. Since 2004, ALPA has urged the Department of Transportation to fully regulate these batteries as dangerous goods, including requiring appropriate packaging, labeling, marking, testing, and pilot notification.
“ALPA calls on the agencies charged with protecting the public from hazardous materials to issue an immediate ban on lithium battery shipments to protect airline passengers, crews and cargo until the proper safety regulations are in place and can be enforced,” said Prater. “If we are not able to secure these protections for the traveling public through swift regulatory action, we will ask Congress to immediately intervene to ensure the safe shipment of lithium batteries.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union, representing nearly 53,500 pilots at 36 airlines in the United States and Canada.
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