Lithium battery risk back in focus after UPS crash

Though the cause of the Sept. 3 crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai that killed two crew members has not yet been determined, a pilots’ organization says the accident eventually may prove to underscore the need for stricter rules on shipping lithium dell batteries.

That’s because the head of the aviation authority in the United Arab Emirates has said it appeared the plane carried mainly electronic goods — many of which are powered by lithium batteries. And news reports relying on unidentified sources have said investigators are trying to determine whether lithium batteries were in the cargo compartment where the fire began.

The crash killed two crew members, including Capt. Doug Lampe of Prospect, Ky.

UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot declined to say whether lithium batteries were among the plane’s cargo, citing the confidentiality of the investigation. U.S. transportation safety officials have also declined to reveal cargo or other details of the investigation, which is being headed by the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority.

But Mark Rogers, dangerous goods program director for the Air Line Pilots Association International, said if reports are correct that the cargo included lithium batteries, the crash “demonstrates what we’ve been saying for years now” — that even if lithium batteries don’t cause a blaze, a fire that involves them “spreads very quickly and can quickly become uncontrollable.”

Lithium batteries, used in millions of electronic items such as laptop computers, cell phones and cameras, have figured in numerous fires on airplanes and in airports in recent years.

Most were extinguished without major damage — such as a passenger’s smoking laptop battery pack that a flight attendant doused with water and Sprite in 2008, and a fire in a bag of audio-video equipment in an overhead bin that forced an emergency landing in 2007.

But the increasing incidence of such fires — 25 since 2007, according to Federal Aviation Administration records — has prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to consider stricter rules for shipping the batteries. It issued proposed rules last January, and has been weighing comments from industry and pilots groups before issuing a final version.

The proposed rules would require more lithium batteries to be labeled as hazardous materials, limit some battery shipments to cargo holds that have fire-control equipment, and require pilots to be notified of batteries being shipped on a flight.

All cargo planes are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to use fire-control equipment in the lower holds, but the FAA has said such equipment in the main hold — roughly the same area as a passenger cabin — would be impractical. Nonetheless, UPS rival FedEx has installed fire-fighting foam equipment in the main cargo holds of 74 of its wide-body jets.

Rogers, of the Air Line Pilots Association, said pilots’ worry is concentrations of batteries in cargo holds, not passengers’ carry-on laptops or cell phones.

He noted that pilots often aren’t aware they’re carrying a load of batteries or electronics, because small lithium batteries aren’t required to be listed among hazardous materials on board.

“We’re aware of a five-pound shipment of dry ice that’s keeping (fish frozen) … but if there are 100,000 lithium batteries next to that shipment, we’re not even aware that they’re there,” Rogers said. “And if a fire were to start, or if that shipment would be exposed to any fire source, the result could be catastrophic.”

On the other side, battery manufacturers and UPS, which has its main air hub in Louisville, say the proposed rules would slow the shipping of computers, medical devices and other goods, cost billions of dollars, and shift some U.S. shipping — and jobs — to overseas carriers.

“We believe that we do ship (lithium batteries) safely,” said UPS’s Mangeot. “We believe there’s always room for improvement. And we are working with regulators to make that happen.” But, he added, “You have to balance tangible improvements in safety with economic impact.”

Atlanta-based UPS and PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association, whose members include many battery manufacturers, were among the organizations that filed comments objecting to portions of the proposed rules.

Both said that shipped batteries have only caused problems when senders didn’t follow safety requirements, such as putting an insulating cap or tape over battery terminals to prevent short circuits.

UPS said that because the proposed U.S. rules differ from international standards, their adoption would cause “chaos” in commercial shipping. Manufacturers would face higher shipping costs — or slower delivery if they switched to ground travel — and U.S. airlines could lose international business to foreign shippers.

UPS estimated the proposed rules would cost the company nearly $ 264 million in the first year alone, in training, equipment and other costs — including the need to reprogram systems and hire more workers at the Worldport hub in Louisville.

Consumers would feel the restrictions as well, said George Kerchner, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Rechargeable Battery Association.

“It would basically mean they would not be able to air-ship their portable electronic equipment,” he said.  Acer laptop battery.

For example, a father couldn’t send a Blackberry to his son in college because it would have to meet standards for shipping hazardous materials, and retail stores don’t have the special labeling and training that would require, Kerchner said.

There are two types of lithium batteries, which present different risks.

Lithium metal batteries contain lithium, are mostly non-rechargeable, and typically power camera, medical devices and other electronics. If they catch on fire, they burn with great heat and can’t be extinguished with suppressants carried on airlines.

Rechargeable lithium ion batteries — used in laptops, cell phones, power tools and other devices — can cause a fire if overheated, but such fires can be extinguished.

Lithium batteries are useful because they store more energy in a small space than other batteries — but that is also what makes them more dangerous when a fire or mishap releases that energy.

“If you handle them properly, you shouldn’t have any problems,” said Jian Xie, a battery expert at Indiana University-Pursue University in Indianapolis. “You’ve probably never heard someone around you say, ‘My cell phone exploded’ or ‘My laptop caught fire.'”

But if a fire spreads to a lithium metal battery, “that battery’s going to explode,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations for tighter handling of lithium batteries in 2007, one year after the fiery downing of a UPS plane in Philadelphia.

With flames shooting from its back, the plane made an emergency landing, and its pilot and two other crew members jumped to safety. It took four hours to bring the blaze under control.

The NTSB’s investigation focused on the possible role of lithium batteries, based partly on the presence of batteries and damaged laptops in the burnt remains. The agency finally said it could not pinpoint the fire’s cause, but found that “flight crews on cargo-only aircraft remain at risk from in-flight fires” involving lithium batteries.

Since then, the NTSB, the transportation department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and pilot groups have advocated continued study of the potential dangers of transporting these batteries, and stricter handling and labeling rules.

Kerchner, of the Rechargeable Battery Association, said lithium batteries are “certainly safe for transport,” based on the billions that have been shipped over the past 15 or 20 years — compared with the few dozen incidents cited by authorities.  toshiba laptop battery.

But Michael Moody Jr., a member of the executive board of the Louisville-based Independent Pilots Association, which represents UPS pilots, disagreed.

“There have been numerous incidents … where we were able to investigate and find that the cause was lithium batteries,” said Moody, who took part in the investigation of the burnt UPS plane in Philadelphia. “The reason why it’s being discussed more and more … is because the rate of incidence of that kind of event is increasing.”

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Highlight in Canton Fair: Focus on MH Industry

Logo China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair), long enjoying the high reputation of China’s foreign trade vane, has welcomed its 19th fair in April 15th, 2011, and has concluded successfully in May, 5th.

This year’s Canton Fair has set up 58699 standard booths, 1563 booths more than the last fair; a total exhibition area of 1.16 million square meters, 30 thousand square meters larger than the last fair. A total of 24415 domestic and foreign firms have participated in this exhibition, 816 firms more than the last time. Both the number of participated enterprises and the exhibition scale have set records.

The statistical data from the sponsor of Canton Fair shows that, by May, 4th, the population of present sellers has reached to 207103, from 209 countries and regions throughout the world, more than of 3.93% of the 108th, and 1.52% of the 107th.

Industry experts said that the buoyancy situation of economy rejuvenated more areas; these new buyers have brought not only the growth of trade volume, but also various innovations of business models.

Mengheng Corporate also has received a brand booth successfully in this year, and established a good image of the enterprise itself. It is one of the largest domestic industries engaged in the research, production and sales of clothing supplementary material.

The firm has a strong research force, excellent production equipments, a complete quality inspection method and technology. The production of clothing accessories including lace series, line series, belt series, headscarves, buttons, etc.

In many of China’s foreign trade companies, the basic sell is product, they rarely has their own brands. However, Mengheng Corporate has always adhered that brand is the soul of an enterprise; the firm always convinced that brand is the most valuable treasure of the enterprise, and always insisted on using in market development and product sales. Its trademark MH Industry has been recognized as Zhejiang famous label and China well-known trademark.

In promotional strategies, the enterprise fully adopts various domestic and international fairs and meetings, and other forms to make extensive publicity. Moreover, every year, more than 2 million yuan will be casted in Global Resources, ALIBABA, GOOGLE and other international business platforms to set up company propaganda pages on the product and brand.

In this Canton Fair, Mengheng Corporate went on with the publicizing of it brand, MH Industry. This has great contributions to its international market expansion and helps the domestic people to have a better understanding of its products.

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Aircraft Age And Stress Puts Focus On Safety

The fleets of aircraft used in the United States are aging, and this is creating a challenge for both the NTSB and the airlines themselves. On average, most aircraft in service today are about fifteen years old and fly on average six flights a day. Even though they are inspected and serviced between flights, there are other factors that affect the aircraft that are not always obvious to the individuals who inspect and service the aircraft. The airplanes bodies are designed with flexibility, because of the changes in pressure in the altitudes they fly in. These changes in pressure are so substantial that the body of the aircraft actually inflates and deflates. Now when this factor is considered with the age and frequent flights occurred, the stress of the joints of the panels of the aircraft body is great.

In recent years, we have seen more than a few airplanes lose panels while in flight. These gaping holes range in size from a few inches to a few feet. When a hole forms in an aircraft while at high altitudes, the pressure inside the cabin is affected along with the oxygen levels for passengers and crew members. This is exactly why before a flight; the safety presentation includes the usage of oxygen masks for passengers. These safety presentations specifically state that an individual must first secure his or her mask first, before attending to anyone else. This includes when helping children. The reason for this is that within 30 seconds of lack of oxygen, a person can go into unconsciousness.

Due to these challenges, airlines throughout the United States and the world for that matter are now requiring a pulse oximeter to be stored in their safety medical bag. A pulse oximeter, also known as a pulse ox by some medical professionals, is a medical device used to measure the blood oxygen saturation and pulse rate of an individual. The new pulse oximeter that is found on airlines is a fingertip version, which simply clips onto ones finger and provides readings within seconds. A finger pulse oximeter runs on standard batteries and is able to withstand the variations in both temperature and pressure, which makes it a durable medical device for flight. Many airlines have put in orders for the devices already, and have already implemented procedures for their use as well.

The safety of both passengers and crew is very important to airlines, and therefore they strive to find new and better products to serve their needs.

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