The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alerted operators to results of new research on the risks associated with transporting lithium batteries as cargo on aircraft and recommended actions air carriers can take to reduce those risks.
In a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO), the FAA summarized recent research which shows that lithium metal (non-rechargeable) and lithium-ion (rechargeable) batteries are highly flammable and capable of igniting during air transport under certain circumstances. The research also indicates that Halon 1301, the suppression agent found in Class C cargo compartments, is ineffective in suppressing lithium metal battery fires.
The SAFO also lays out additional recommended procedures air carriers can institute when transporting lithium batteries.
On September 3, 2010 a Boeing 747-400F operated by United Parcel Service crashed near Dubai, UAE. The aircraft returned during an emergency return to Dubai due to a smoke alert. The investigation of the crash is still underway, and the cause of the crash has not been determined. The FAA is aware, however, that the plane’s cargo did include large quantities of lithium batteries and believed it prudent to advise operators of that fact.