Passenger planes in the USA can still carry potentially deadly cargo of lithium-ion batteries after a U-turn by the Government.
A year ago the government was campaigning for an international ban on shipments of rechargeable batteries on passenger planes because the batteries can self-ignite, creating intense fires capable of destroying an airliner.
The move came after it was thought three cargo planes had crashed after fires caused by lithium-ion batteries overheating brought them down.
According to NBC News in New York, at the time a US aviation official, Angela Stubblefield, said: "The risk is immediate and urgent.”
The International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN agency that sets global aviation safety standards, decided last year to ban bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries on international passenger flights. On cargo flights, the batteries can be charged to no more than 30%, a level that may reduce the likelihood of fires.
Countries around the world have been adopting the new international standard for domestic flights as well. The Obama administration had submitted plans to make the rules binding but these have been put on hold by the administration led by Donald Trump as part of his move to cut back on red tape which he fears is holding the US economy back.
This means airlines and cargo operators remain free to ignore the standard for domestic flights. President Trump's executive order says urgent safety rules can be exempted from the freeze, but the new administration isn't invoking that exemption for battery shipments.
The Transportation Department said in a statement: "This is part of our ongoing regulatory review. The safe movement of hazardous materials remains a priority. We will provide updates as soon as decisions are made with regard to these and other issues at hand."
But no time frame has been given.
Rechargeable batteries are used in consumer products including mobile phones and laptops.
Manufacturers like them because they pack more energy into smaller packages, but the batteries can self-ignite if they have a manufacturing flaw, are damaged, exposed to excessive heat, overcharged or packed too closely together. The fires can burn up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, close to the melting point of the aluminum used in aircraft construction.
Since 2006, three cargo jets have been destroyed and four pilots killed by in-flight fires that accident investigators say were either started by batteries or made more severe by their proximity.
Most passenger carriers and some cargo operators are voluntarily abiding by the international standard for their domestic operations for the time being. Trade associations for the US and international airline industries say they support extending the standard to domestic flights.
Safety concerns about rechargeable batteries increased after Federal Aviation Administartion tests in 2014 showed gases emitted by overheated batteries can build up in cargo containers, leading to explosions capable of disabling aircraft fire suppression systems.
There have been cases of mobile phones and laptops catching fire on passenger planes and a new invention called an AvSax has been deployed to deal with the danger quickly and effectively. They are now on board several major US carriers.
Simply pour at least two litres of water into an AvSax and then drop the burning device into the bag. The water activates a polymer gel inside the bag’s lining causing it to expand around the device. Should the device keep on burning then the AvSax is tough enough to absorb the force.
For more on his go to www.avsax.com