UN Aviation Panel Rejects Ban on Lithium Batteries in Cargo

  • Preliminary vote rejects calls from safety advocates, pilots
  • Lithium-based batteries linked to at least three plane crashes

A United Nations aviation panel has tentatively rejected a proposed ban on passenger airlines carrying lithium batteries as cargo despite calls to do so by U.S. regulators.

A dangerous goods committee at the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal took the vote Wednesday, a preliminary step in setting guidance for aviation regulators around the world, according to two people familiar with the action. The people weren’t authorized to speak for the UN aviation group.

Lithium-based batteries have been linked to at least three airplane accidents and recent testing by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has found that they can emit fumes that will explode in cargo holds if they overheat.

ICAO hasn’t announced the results of the vote. The organization is meeting this week to consider a range of new measures to improve the safety of batteries in cargo, including limiting how much they are charged before they’re shipped and changing packaging standards.

Battery industry groups such as PRBA-The Rechargeable Battery Association
have argued that improved safety can be achieved without a ban.

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, an umbrella for airline unions, urged the panel to bar all lithium-battery cargo until safer measures were developed. Last July, Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE also urged airlines not to carry battery shipments.

Congress in 2012 barred the U.S. government from imposing stricter standards on lithium batteries than what ICAO recommends.

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