Tuesday morning, February 7th, 2023, a United Airlines flight departed San Diego International Airport and soon needed to return due to an external battery pack catching fire onboard. The fire occurred in the cabin of the plane, a Boeing 737, United Airlines 2664, and sent four passengers to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. Fortunately, the crew managed to contain the flame by placing the battery pack in a Fire Bag.
Between March 3rd, 2006 and October 9th, 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has tracked 414 lithium battery incidents involving smoke, fire, or extreme heat. Battery packs have been the leading cause of these incidents, amounting to 179 of the 414. The FAA mandates that passengers must not check baggage with (i) lithium metal batteries containing more than 0.3 grams of lithium or (ii) lithium-ion batteries with a watt-hour rating of more than 2.7 watt-hours. 49 C.F.R. § 175.10(a)(26). The Tuesday fire was a perfect example as to why, because the fire occurring in the cabin afforded the crew the opportunity to stifle it before it spread.
On Monday, February 6th, 2023, the FAA published the “Final Annual Update to Congress on Cooperative Efforts to Ensure Compliance with Aviation Safety Regulations for Lithium Batteries”. This report notes that Section 333 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 directs the FAA to continue improving the regulation of lithium cells and batteries. Section 333(e)(2) directs specific areas for improvement:
(A) encouraging lithium transportation training programs at locations outside the United States from which substantial cargo shipments of lithium ion or lithium metal batteries originate;
(B) ensuring enforcement of U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations and ICAO Technical Instructions;
(C) sharing information with federal, regional, and international transportation entities on non-compliant shipments;
(D) pursuing a joint effort with the international aviation community to develop a process to obtain assurances that appropriate enforcement actions are taken to reduce the likelihood of non-compliant shipments; and
(E) providing brochures to guide compliance with U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations and ICAO Technical Instructions.
Established in 1999 and based in Washington, D.C., The Wicks Group, PLLC (“TWG”) advises manufacturers, packaging associations, and air operators on U.S. and international regulations governing the transportation of Hazardous Materials. TWG also regularly assists foreign air carriers with obtaining the US government approvals needed for US air carrier operations and assists foreign repair stations with securing the FAA certification required to maintain US-registered aircraft.
For more information about The Wicks Group, PLLC, please contact Glenn Wicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.