Earlier this month, we told you about FAA research on exploding lithium-ion batteries’ impacts on aircraft. Now, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a division of the United Nations, has made a surprise judgment on the carriage of those rechargeable cells in cargo aircraft.
The ICAO temporarily banned cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries through passenger aircraft. The restriction begins in April and will last until when the UN can agree on new packaging standards for the batteries — that’s expected to be sometime in 2018. The organization will also put the pressure on cargo operators to limit bulk battery transportation as well. Many larger operators already had restrictions in effect, but with the decision, the 36 member aviation regulators of the ICAO will now enforce a ban.
The ban does not apply to lithium-ion batteries within devices, but for the time being, it seems that this may pose a challenge to some components and device manufacturers who ship lithium-ion batteries through the air in addition or as opposed to seafaring vessels or trucks. While the final product may not suffer delays, some manufacturers will likely face delays in the assembly process, especially as the ban takes effect.
Lithium batteries’ tendency to explode when poorly made or poorly protected during transit has worried many pilots, aircraft manufacturers and regulatory agencies. The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 found “credible evidence” of lacking carriage standards for lithium-ion batteries that contributed to its crash. Three people were killed in the 2011 incident.