Release #13.14
April 11, 2013

ALPA Applauds NTSB Discussion on the Transport of Lithium Batteries
ALPA advocates lithium battery shipments be fully regulated as hazardous materials.

WASHINGTON—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) applauds the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for advancing conversation regarding the transport of lithium batteries at its forum today.

ALPA submitted written comments to the NTSB, and representatives attended today’s event to advocate its long-held position that shipments of lithium batteries should be considered hazardous materials that fall under regulations requiring special packaging, handling procedures, and notice to flight crews, among other rules. Additionally, the batteries should be loaded in a cargo compartment with fire suppression and limited in quantity to allow the suppression to be effective.

“At the very least, shipments of lithium batteries, especially large quantities, should be held to the same standards in place for the thousands of other commodities identified as hazardous materials” said ALPA President Lee Moak. “We know these batteries can pose a fire hazard that can be a significant risk to the safety of an aircraft. Since these batteries were introduced in the early 1990s, the FAA has identified more than 40 separate fire incidents in which lithium batteries have played a role. U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations must be revised to protect flight crews, passengers, and aircraft from the risk of a fire caused or exacerbated by shipments of lithium batteries as air cargo.”

When lithium batteries are mishandled, damaged, misused, improperly packaged, overcharged, defective, or are of an inferior design, they may overheat and ignite. The hazard of lithium battery shipments is compounded on an aircraft since fires involving lithium batteries are difficult to extinguish.

ALPA recommends lithium batteries be fully regulated as hazardous material on aircraft and be subject to the following provisions:

• Pilot-in-command must be notified of all lithium battery shipments and lithium batteries contained in equipment that are aboard the aircraft as cargo.
• Shipments should be required to meet appropriate marking, labeling, and packaging requirements.
• Shippers who prepare the lithium battery packages and employees who handle them must be properly trained.
• Shipments must undergo an acceptance check and be inspected prior to and after being loaded and unloaded.
• Shipments must be loaded in a cargo compartment with adequate fire suppression.
• Quantities of lithium batteries in a cargo compartment must be limited to allow the fire suppression to be effective.

Last month, ALPA urged the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to adopt more stringent regulations over the air transportation of lithium batteries and align them with current International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements. ICAO adopted amendments to its dangerous goods rules concerning lithium batteries that became effective January 1, 2013.

While these regulations would be a step towards improving the safety of lithium battery shipments, ALPA believes that they should go even further to advance safety.

PHMSA banned shipments of lithium-metal batteries on passenger aircraft in 2004. In order to achieve one level of safety for lithium battery shipments, ALPA urges regulators to extend the ban to cargo-only airliners until adequate safety standards are in place to protect all aircraft from a lithium metal battery fire.

For more details on ALPA’s position, review its primer on the Safety of Transporting Lithium Batteries by Air.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest airline pilot union, representing more than 50,000 pilots at 34 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at