US testing of lithium batteries alarms aviation officials

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — International aviation officials are trying to quickly come up with safer packaging for air cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries, after U.S. testing confirmed that aircraft fire suppression systems can't prevent overheated batteries from causing a powerful explosion.

The International Civil Aviation Organization's committee on hazardous cargo met this week in Montreal. Officials familiar with the discussions say the panel heard a detailed presentation by aircraft manufacturers and pilot unions on the potential for the batteries to cause an explosion and fire capable of destroying a plane.

If a working group cannot come up with packaging capable of containing an explosion or fire, union officials say they will formally propose that bulk battery shipments be banned. The batteries are used in devices from cellphones to electric cars.