Airline passengers warned over battery dangers

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The Independent Travel

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has warned passengers to avoid checking some types of electronic devices into an aircraft's hold.

The organization said August 2 that passengers would see additional screening since lithium batteries, used to power items such as laptops, mobile phones, cameras and iPods, have been linked to a rise in dangerous goods incidents onboard airplanes in recent years.

It said that given certain conditions, the new type of battery is more susceptible to starting a fire as the energy contained in them is greater than that found in previous types of rechargeable or dry cell batteries.

"As these batteries have the potential to short circuit and burn under certain conditions, the preference is to have them carried in the cabin by passengers where the risk can be better managed," CASA's Director of Aviation Safety John McCormick said.

"Cabin crew and flight crew are specifically trained in the management and handling of dangerous goods incidents in the aircraft cabin, including those caused by lithium battery fires and can respond quickly if an incident arises."

Battery incidents are not uncommon on commercial flights, and evidence suggests that they are growing with the popularity of electronic goods, in some cases resulting in cabin fires which crew are trained to extinguish.

However, a fire in the cramped, inaccessible cargo hold presents a significantly greater risk to an aircraft and is considered a possible cause of a fire which resulted in the crash of cargo flight UPS006 last year in the United Arab Emirates, in which both pilots were killed.

Shortly after the crash, the US Federal Aviation Administration issued an urgent warning to airlines about the dangers of carrying large shipments of lithium batteries.

CASA said that passengers may now experience a small delay at check-in as airlines begin questioning passengers on whether their luggage contains batteries and advise on how to carry them safely.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China implemented new rules regarding transportation of electronic devices following a cabin fire involving a video camera in May.

More information from the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authorities is available at: http://www.casa.gov.au/dg

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