The FAA has issued a new SAFO cautioning airlines to confirm Hazardous Materials compliance of lithium battery shipments.

The SAFO specifically names Braille Battery, which manufactures lithium batteries which power racing cars.

The FAA warns that Braille have failed  to show proof of compliance to Hazardous Materials Regulations for air transport.

“An essential step in ensuring the safe transport of lithium batteries includes the requirement that each lithium cell or battery must be of the type proven to meet the criteria in part III, subsection 38.3 of the U.N. Manual of Tests and Criteria before it can be offered or transported via any mode of transportation,” the FAA states in the SAFO. “An FAA investigation involving Braille Battery, Inc. revealed that Braille Battery, Inc. continues to offer certain lithium ion batteries for air transport that are not proven to meet the criteria in part III, sub-section 38.3 of the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria.”

The FAA advises airlines to verify that Braille is submitting valid documentation for shipments.

“One recommended method is to require Braille Battery, Inc. to provide information showing specific lithium ion battery(s) in the shipment are within the accepted limits authorised by the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR) provisions being applied. The directors of operations and directors of safety should consider verifying the accuracy of the documentation provided by Braille Battery with the testing facility,” the SAFO states.

Airlines can carry a variety of cargo onboard, including limited classes of Hazardous Materials, but airlines rely on suppliers submitting accurate paperwork on the contents of the shipments.

One concern with recent lithium battery restrictions–which IATA has pointed out–is that illegitimate battery manufacturers may try to circumvent these regulations and disguise shipments that would not be approved by providing false documents and labelling of packages.

But this SAFO shows that even legitimate battery manufacturers may be lax in their compliance to shipping requirement regulations. This raises questions whether the battery industry can ever guarantee safe transport of these dangerous goods.

There is reason to be concerned over incidents of electronic device fires in the cabin–which are potentially dangerous, but can be put out by crew–but the invisible threats from batteries in the hold of the aircraft have long worried pilots associations worried pilots associations, who have urged more stringent regulations for years.

Video of FAA flammability testing of lithium battery fire in aircraft cargo container:


More on lithium’s threat to aviation.

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