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Crash plane's 'hazardous' batteries

The cargo of a United Parcel Service plane that caught fire and crashed last year included lithium batteries that should have been declared as hazardous cargo an accident report by Dubai's civil aviation authority said.

The report also paints a harrowing picture of two pilots struggling desperately to land their plane while running low on emergency oxygen and fighting smoke so thick they could not see their flight instruments or change radio frequencies.

The Boeing 747-400 crashed near Dubai's airport on September 3 last year as the flight's first officer attempted an emergency landing. Both pilots were killed.

The report, which does not identify the cause of the fire, is expected to raise questions about shipments of the batteries. The batteries can short-circuit and cause fires that burn hot enough to melt a plane.

UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said the company was examining about 40 different safety technologies in response to the accident, including some that would help protect pilots' ability to see in smoke. He said the company was also re-evaluating cockpit emergency oxygen systems on their planes.

The UPS plane arrived in Dubai from Hong Kong with cargo identified as "lithium batteries and electronic equipment containing or packed with lithium batteries", which were distributed throughout the cargo compartments, the report said.

There were no hazardous cargo declarations on the flight's manifest, but at least three of the shipments contained rechargeable lithium battery packs that should have been treated as hazardous cargo under international shipping regulations, the report said.

Lithium batteries are already the focus of an intense lobbying battle under way in Washington. A proposed Transportation Department rule would require that lithium batteries - like those used in watches, mobile phones, laptops and countless other products - be treated as hazardous cargo when shipped by air.

Currently, only some larger lithium batteries are required to be treated as hazardous cargo. The proposed rule would require special packaging and handling of battery shipments. Pilots would have to be informed that the batteries are on board and their location and workers who prepare the batteries for shipment would receive special training.

But the proposal is opposed by an array of foreign and domestic companies, including UPS, as well as several major US trading partners. They say it will cost industry hundreds of millions of dollars and disrupt international shipping.


From Belfast Telegraph