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September 26, 2012

Did electric car batteries lead to fire and loss of 747?

That's certainly one possibility raised by this FlightGlobal piece on the demise of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 747-400F and its crew on July 28, 2011.

The crew reported problems controlling the aircraft and from their first warning to loss of contract only 18 minutes passed. The story has this clue as to a possible origin of the fire that apparently brought down the freighter aircraft.

The main-deck pallets included two which were listed as containing dangerous goods, loaded into the positions designated ML and PR, adjacent to the rear freight door. Among these hazardous shipments were lithium-ion batteries - for use in hybrid electric vehicles - as well as highly-flammable and corrosive liquids, for integrated-circuit manufacture, plus lacquers and paints.

Lithium batteries have long been a concern to operators, and earlier this year the International Civil Aviation Organisation examined new safety standards in the wake of the Asiana crash and the loss of a UPS 747-400F in Dubai after an in-flight fire in September 2010.

- Bob Cox



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