Before you start worrying about “the potential risk for a catastrophic hull loss” — or better yet, hearing that the Federal Aviation Administration is just starting to realize the potential for the batteries in our smartphones and hoverboards to cause havoc on aircraft — just know that rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and single-use lithium-metal batteries are already classified as hazardous materials.
To be clear, Lithium-ion batteries have been and can still be legally carried on both passenger and cargo aircraft while lithium-metals can only be carried in cargo planes.
But the agency, in co-operation with the International Civil Aviation Organization, has done some looking in to see what destruction a single battery malfunction can cause, especially when that lithium battery‘s being shipped in a box full of other batteries.
The research shows that aircraft fire extinguishing systems would be insufficient to prevent further battery explosions from happening and that the cargo bay would be over-pressurized enough to dislodge panels that would prevent smoke and gasses from seeping into other sections of the aircraft.
“The number of cells necessary to produce this condition is small and can occur with just a few packages,” the FAA states in a Safety Alert for [air service] Operators.
Boeing and Airbus have sent alerts and revised safety guidelines to operators.