October 8, 2009
DOT Advisory Falls Short of Safe Lithium Battery Shipments
ALPA Renews Call for Temporary Ban
WASHINGTON – The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), welcomes the Department of Transportation (DOT) advisory highlighting the safety threat lithium battery shipments pose to aviation and urging shippers to comply with applicable regulations, but the current rules are inadequate to prevent onboard fires and safeguard passengers and crews. An immediate temporary ban on lithium battery shipments on airliners must be enacted and enforced.
“Urging shippers to comply with inadequate regulations won’t protect the flying public from fire risk posed by lithium battery shipments,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “Despite the recent incidents of fires on board airliners, lithium batteries aren’t treated like other dangerous goods, and regulations don’t exist to ensure that training, packaging, labeling, testing, and pilot notification meet the standards necessary for their safe transport.”
On August 20, Capt. Prater sent a letter to Cynthia Douglass, acting deputy administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), calling on her to immediately issue a temporary ban on lithium battery shipments until adequate safety regulations can be created and enforced.
In her letter of response, Acting Deputy Administrator Douglass stated that “Regarding your interest in an interim ban, PHMSA and FAA have determined that the preferred outcome is a strong and easily understood regulation such as the one in process. It makes most sense to put our staff resources into expediting the draft NPRM toward a final rule—the goal being a NPRM this fall and a final rule to follow.”
“At least three new incidents involving lithium batteries in air transportation have occurred just in the weeks since ALPA called for the temporary ban,” said First Officer Mark Rogers, ALPA’s dangerous goods programs director. “It’s clear that there’s a serious risk—all that’s needed is for one airliner to catch fire in flight to endanger passengers, the crew, and individuals on the ground.”
Lithium batteries power laptop computers, cell phones, flashlights, and cameras. ALPA is not calling for new restrictions on what passengers are permitted to bring aboard airliners but is extremely concerned about the safety hazard posed by transporting lithium batteries, particularly in large quantities, aboard passenger and cargo aircraft as cargo.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Dangerous Goods Panel is meeting in Montreal this week and has dedicated an entire meeting day to discussing lithium batteries. ALPA, through the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), is participating in the meeting and urges the international aviation community to enact stronger regulations on the transport of lithium battery shipments.
“We commend the DOT for setting an example for the world in developing new regulations that reflect the safety risk, but these regulations will take time to create,” concluded Prater. “ALPA stands ready to work with PHMSA, the FAA, and all stakeholders to position our industry to safely ship lithium batteries aboard airliners. In the meantime, even one incident is one too many, and an immediate temporary ban is urgently needed to protect passengers, crews, and individuals on the ground.”
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.
Contact: Linda Shotwell, 703/481-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org