Lithium battery likely behind 2013 Boeing fire at Heathrow

19th August 2015, Comments 0 comments

British aviation authorities called Wednesday for a safety review of lithium batteries used in commercial aircraft, saying they were believed responsible for a 2013 fire on an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft at London's Heathrow.

According to a report published by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), an "uncontrolled release of stored energy from the lithium-metal battery" in the plane's Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) was likely responsible for the blaze aboard the empty Boeing 787 as it sat parked at Heathrow on July 12, 2013.

The AAIB said a short circuit appeared to have caused the lithium battery to ignite.

The agency urged aviation authorities in Europe, the US and Canada to "require equipment manufacturers intending to use lithium-metal batteries in aircraft equipment to demonstrate that the battery design incorporates an acceptable level of circuit protection to mitigate against known failure modes."

Though the fire broke out in an empty plane, the rapid spread of the blaze through combustible materials in the cabin could have had dire consequences in an airborne craft packed with passengers, it said.

The fire led to the closure of Heathrow for 90 minutes, and raised concerns about batteries in Boeing's 787 Dreamliners.

Previously, lithium batteries powering Dreamliners had been found responsible for electrical fires aboard.

The AAIB report not only called for a review of the batteries and layout of electrical equipment surrounding them, but also to ensure accessibility to them by cabin crew in the event of an emergency.

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© 2015 AFP

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