The Risk of Battery Incidents

Many people in aviation forums are claiming that the new spare battery rules to reduce the risk of fires would be “stupid” and “disproportionately”, but actually these rules are needed and indeed making sense! In the past several incidents regarding batteries have been reported.

Following just a few examples.

A passenger passed a 9V alkaline battery to the flight attendant, which was becoming increasingly hot. The flight attendant could not hold the battery in her/his hand because of the heat intensity. The battery was placed on a magazine, carried to the galley and placed in a cup of ice.

During flight a spare battery exploded in the cabin. Nobody was injured and the aircraft was not damaged, with the exception of a seat cushion.

A checked bag catched fire during boarding. The bag in flames and all remaining luggage of the passanger was removed. It was later determined by the fire department that the fire was caused by a battery pack for a PSP handheld (Sony Playstation Portable) along with a bundle of wires/cables.

On a Cessna Skylane 182 the pilot heard a sharp explosion and saw a cloud of smoke in the baggage compartment.
The pilot was using a portable intercom at the time and had changed the 9 Volt alkaline batteries before flight. He had thrown the used batteries into his flight case for disposal at home. The batteries had shorted out on a metallic piece of the flight case and exploded.

On a Cessna Skyhawk 172 a spare 9 Volt alkaline battery was stored in a accessory bag. The battery had been removed from its packaging in case it was needed. The unprotected battery terminals had come in contact with the zipper of the cotton accessory bag, shorting the battery and setting the fibric around the zipper on fire.

On February 7, 2006, United Parcel Service Company (UPS) flight 1307, a McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71F,2 N748UP, landed at its destination airport, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after a cargo smoke indication in the cockpit. The airplane and most of the cargo were destroyed by fire after landing.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was an in-flight cargo fire that initiated from an unknown source, which was most likely located within cargo container 12, 13, or 14.
A number of secondary (rechargeable) lithium batteries, were found loose and in laptop computers and cell phones in the accident debris.
Although it could not be determined whether lithium batteries played a role in the UPS cargo fire, public hearing testimony and the continued occurrence of incidents involving these batteries on board airplanes suggest the need for greater attention to the risks posed by transporting these batteries on commercial aircraft. A review of FAA and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) records shows that the number of both secondary and primary lithium battery-related incidents, many of which involved laptop computer fires that resulted from either internal or external short-circuiting of the secondary lithium batteries, has increased consistently over the years. The increasing popularity of portable electronic devices suggests that lithium battery-related incidents, particularly those involving secondary lithium batteries, will continue to increase. The Safety Board concludes that testing and incident data indicate that lithium batteries can pose a fire hazard.


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