Posted on: 20 July 2015 by Mark Howells
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has released a statement asking airlines to advise passengers to carry personal electronic devices (PEDs) containing lithium batteries in the aircraft cabin to reduce the risk of fires in the luggage hold.
The association acknowledges that passengers do usually carry PEDs in their hand baggage, but want airlines and regulators to look at what steps they could take to ensure this is the case, as it isn’t currently a formal requirement.
BALPA says small changes could stop PEDs inadvertently ending up in the hold when a passenger is asked at the last minute to put their hand baggage in the hold due to lack of space in the aircraft cabin. It also thinks passengers should be provided with advice on how to pack spare batteries in their hand luggage safely.
Lithium batteries in everyday items are highly flammable and, when they short circuit, have a tendency to burst into high intensity fires, which are difficult to extinguish. However, the association says that in the aircraft cabin a build-up of gases or fire can be tackled more easily.
The request comes in response to lithium battery fires, which BALPA claims have caused at least three cargo aircraft crashes. The UN safety regulator has banned a specific type of lithium battery (lithium metal) from being carried as cargo on passenger aircraft.
“Lithium batteries power the technology that enables passengers, pilots and cabin crew to travel light and stay connected but they carry an aircraft fire risk that we must all protect against,” commented BALPA’s general secretary Jim McAuslan. “UK pilots are always vigilant to emerging risks because we want to stop accidents before they happen and make every single flight a safe one.
“We want to work with airlines and passengers to keep everyday lithium batteries on the aircraft but out of the luggage hold.”