It’s not just hoverboards we have to worry about any more. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) just released an alarming warning to airlines in the U.S. and abroad, strongly urging them to perform safety risk assessments regarding allowing lithium batteries to be transported as cargo.
The FAA issued a Safety Alert for Operators to warn airlines «of the potential risk for a catastrophic hull loss due to significant identified dangers associated with the transport of lithium batteries as cargo on either passenger or cargo aircraft.»
Why is this such a concern? Just watch this testing video from the FAA, designed to simulate a battery fire in the cargo hold:
A press release from the FAA explains, «FAA battery fire testing has highlighted the potential risk of a catastrophic aircraft loss due to damage resulting from a lithium battery fire or explosion. Current cargo fire suppression systems cannot effectively control a lithium battery fire.»
The batteries in question are the rechargeable, lithium-ion ones that are found in everything from phones to laptops. However, the warning is only for batteries being transported alone (not those that are already installed inside electronics, so you can continue to carry on your phones and laptops without worry).
Currently, FAA guidelines allow flyers to pack these batteries in their carry-ons, as long as they are 160 watt hours or less per battery. (That’s why hoverboards, with their super-powerful batteries designed to last for up to 10 miles, are banned by many airlines.) Backup lithium batteries are not allowed in checked luggage, and many commercial airlines have instituted their own rules against carrying the batteries.
This new warning is intended to «identify and mitigate risks for the airlines that still carry lithium batteries and to help those that don’t carry them from inadvertently accepting them for transport.»