View Full Version : Lithium battery related incidences
14th Feb 2011, 16:02
I would appreciate input on lithium battery related in-flight incidences as
well as information on industry practices on the matter.
Thank you in advance for your contibution of knowledge to IMHO an
underrated danger in the modern aviation environment.
14th Feb 2011, 19:05
That was most interesting and rather sobering. I have oticed that when batteries get on a bit they tend to get rather hot during charging. Then they are disposed of.
14th Feb 2011, 19:34
Session Details (http://www.fire.tc.faa.gov/2007Conference/session_details.asp?sessionID=26)
15th Feb 2011, 14:29
Dear all thank you for the prompt reply.
I have already been familiar to most of the documents and videos.
I was wandering if anyone knew about a flight deck laptop computer lithium battery giving problems to any paper less flight crew.
The big thing is not to allow them to heat in the sun...so say in Dubai 40C ambient plus solar easily above 70C after this temp the fire begins and as shown is impossible to stop Always always attended with you in a bag never leave them in the sun unattended
Questions from first and previous slots:"... lithium battery related in-flight incidence ... [?] ... wandering ... about a flight deck laptop computer lithium battery ... problems ....[?]"
Other than that 7Feb06 DC8 case, search of the Cabin Safety Research Technical Group's database yields ONLY ONE lithium-battery related event -- that odd case of 15Dec06 in which the passenger had that Air Purifier on his neck: 20061215A, B737-824, N24202, NEAR COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO, U.S.A., 15-DEC-2006
That CSRTG database is available on the web, on contract from FAA Aircraft Fire Research Center:Fire Safety Cabin Safety Research Technical Group (http://www.fire.tc.faa.gov/cabin.stm)
CSRTG Aircraft Accident Database (http://www.rgwcherry-adb.co.uk/)
Hmmm -- ? so the industry has had ONLY ONE event of a lithium-battery fire, from a device while in-use??? And NO CASES of any Computer-battery fire, while the device was operating, while inflight???
No Wrong Attitude
You Read This So You Know
Totally WRONG ATTITUDE
15th Feb 2011, 20:30
The hazard analysis of lithium-ion batteries stems from the known chemistry and physical characteristics.
They can do, and do, go into thermal positive-feedback. This is physical fact. It is hard to arrest, and most airlines have no practices in place or equipment in the cabin to deal with it.
Given that the hazard is known, the relevant question is how it is mitigated in commercial aviation. Mostly, it seems people just hope it won't occur to them. The question of how many actual incidents have occurred is secondary.
16th Feb 2011, 20:51
Now would there be a proven technique to addres those hazards?
Now would there be a proven technique to addres those hazards?
Heavens, SM, think before you speak (if it's possible)!
One addresses hazards by something known as "hazard analysis" or Hazan, for which there are many different specific methods available, such as FMEA, FMECA and Hazop (to mention just the three most-used, which are all standardised), Ontological Hazard Analysis (our technique, which addresses the issue of completeness) or Leveson's STPA.
If we're talking about lithium battery incidents in the passenger cabin, then most have been caused by passengers not protecting the battery terminals from short-circuit. The challenge here is educating passengers as to how they should protect spare batteries.
As for guidance on actions for cabin crew, the ICAO "red book" provides very clear guidance for cabin on how to respond to a fire involving lithium batteries.
1. deal with the fire using halon or other available fire extinguishers; and
2. cool the device/batteries by dousing with water or other non-flammable liquid.
This has been demonstated as putting out the fire and preventing subsequent reignition from the overheated lithium battery.
17th Feb 2011, 15:52
so the industry has had ONLY ONE event of a lithium-battery fire, from a device while in-use???
You appear to be downplaying a hazard, tantamount to dismissing it out of hand.
You might have missed the destruction of UPS 6 recently, likely the result of a fire initiated by lithium batteries. While your question asks about a "device while in use," do we really care if it's a computer in use, one in storage, a flashlight, or a box of batteries on the main cargo deck? Burned to death is rather final, and the hazard should never be understated.
18th Feb 2011, 15:22
I think the threat of lithium batteries has not been adequately addressed in the industry. My belief is, like anything else, we have not had an accident bad enough to warrant real action; but I believe we will.
2 incidents I was made aware of at a Cessna service center in Florida. They talked of 2 lithium power laptop/notepad devices which experienced lithium battery ruptures. One incident the airplane was on the ramp with no flight pending. As the crew member worked on charts the battery ruptured and they were able to get it off the airplane and throw it on the tarmac. A second very similar incident where the crew was doing updates sitting in the cockpit. They were a little slower to get the laptop off the airplane and the crew member sustained burns to the legs when his pants were ignited.
One of the WORST things you can do with a lithium battery fire is throw water on it. It mixes with the chemicals released and creates more hydrogen making a bad situation quickly lethal!
I tried bringing the issue up in our flight organization which uses many laptops and flight aids for charts. My chief pilot (who is pays people to change the oil in his lawnmower because he does not know how) told me I don't have the experience he and the others have and should shut up. He also was very upset with me because I would not fly below glide path approaches. We operated out of a 5000' strip and according to him and a few others you can make shorter landings de-tasseling corn in a low as possible approaches. When I demonstrated the opposite I was told since I came form a King Air background I did not know hot to fly jets like they did and was, in anger, ordered to fly bellow glide path approaches! Later our company had "anonymous" evaluations of our department where we evaluated the department and our supervisors. I gave him low marks in many areas. Soon after that I was let go with no reason.
But that is why I say the lithium battery problem will not be properly addressed until there is an adequate accident to warrant change.
Here is the problem. Once a lithium based battery starts it's melt down, it can't be stopped; very much like a Nicad battery. I am not well versed on how a fire extinguishers work but I know some have to be avoided.
Water is the absolute worst thing you can throw on a Lithium battery; even if just hot. If ANY material is pushed outside the wrapper it will ignite immediately.
Google 3 things;
lithium batter fire
Lithium Laptop fire
Lithium battery fire water
It becomes quite clear how bad the dangers are. Dealing with these batteries in the hobby world, lithium batteries are ALWAYS charged in a containment container, near a door, and always supervised until cool. I have personally ignited 2 battery packs myself by improper charging (my fault). Immediately out the door and thrown in the yard.I have a friend who has also done so and as he ran out the door the ooze leaking from the battery set his couch and carpet on fire. This was a pack about 1/4 the size of a laptop battery.
Have you ever seen robot wars? I was reading an article where they go on no matter what the damage. They can contain the fires and such in the metal arenas. What they cannot contain is lithium smoke. Even in a stadium, a lithium battery fire often requires stopping the event and evacuating the stadium till the smoke is cleared. Even the techs can't go in to put out the fire till the smoke is cleared in some fashion. The smoke is THAT BAD!
The preferred method to putting out a lithium fire is covering it in sand.
A battery fire clears a stadium, burns couches, carpets, requires fans to clear smoke before you can enter, NONE of these buildings are at FL400 in a confined compartment with NO ESCAPE!!
I personally would call on the aviation community to have a proactive search for how to deal with this. I have ideas but no answers. Answers would require testing, experimentation and a group effort.
My suggestions in our department were
1. Create some solutions
2. Test the solutions
My thoughts should this happen in a aircraft cockpit or cabin,
1. Remove from cockpit
2. Open largest metal container such as stainless ice bucket.
3. Wipe bucket dry quickly
4. Pull carpet back on floor
5. Put laptop in dry steel ice bucket, hit with extinguisher if we find this works in testing,
6. Turn laptop and bucket upside down and seal against metal floor as best you can to contain smoke
This is just procedures for handling the laptop to contain fire and smoke. Obviously the crew would be running their procedures for smoke and getting the airplane on the ground.
I was told to drop it because it was not my position to bring up such things and it makes the people who had been there for some time jealous (that was his exact words). If 50% of the flight departments took this seriously, you still have 50% where there is no avenue to even discuss such a thing. Quite often the people in charge of this stuff got in their position not because they know what they are doing but because they don't. To make up for what they lack in technical understanding they make up for in kissing ass and playing golf! They will run an aircraft off the runway some time. Sever of the guys struggle with what they do and I am glad I am not there any more.
In the future, after we have a major disaster or two I see two changes.
1. Containment boxes and procedures for all aircraft big and small.
2. Containment slots in larger aircraft where things like portable devices can be dropped into and contained OR even released from aircraft.
Other things to think about:
1. There are several types of lithium batteries and they are not all the same
2. If Lithium's were such a great improvement to power in a small package, what will be the next power improvement? We will be dealing with new high powered sources in small containers for here on out.
But what do I know......I can change my own oil! I know that much!
Assertion from SNS3: "...had ONLY ONE event of a lithium-battery fire, from a device while in-use??? ... appear to be downplaying a hazard ... dismissing it...."
The question I had was about the accuracy of the mishap-DATA:
I had suspected that there were MORE cases (lithium-Laptop computer), but I couldn't locate any (not even one) in the records. You readers must have exemplars of a passenger's LAPTOP igniting/flaming during flight (??). Or the pilot's laptop??
We have that exemplar of the copilot's WATER-BOTTLE acting as a lens -- converging the SUN rays to ignite nearby materials (fire in the cockpit). ---- There must be at least ONE case of a pax or pilot's LAPTOP flaming (?????).
Some of the responses on here ANNOY ME.
If you cannot see WHY this important you need to get out of avaition NOW.
THIS IS THE LINK
Fire Safety Cabin Safety Research Technical Group (http://www.fire.tc.faa.gov/2007Conference/proceedings.asp)
USE IT AND TAKE AN HOUR TO GO THRU IT.
So, craftmaster, you say don't put water anywhere near a lithium-ion battery fire.
The FAA says: first method of choice is to use a water extinguisher; second method of choice: halon 1211 extinguisher followed by dousing with water or whatever is on the drinks cart and has no alcohol (and is likely mainly water).
The crucial issue is that, once a cell has gone into thermal runaway, the other adjacent cells need to be cooled to ensure that they don't go into thermal runaway, even though the fire is out. And water or liquids which are mostly water (and no alcohol) are the best available substances to do that.
The FAA has videos (referenced already in this thread).
How do you reconcile your view with that of the FAA?
19th Feb 2011, 18:58
I am really not sure why the FAA say that. I frankly think they have not studied it enough. I understand not all lithium polymers are the same and I understand that I am no expert on it. None the less in hobby circles (yea I am a techno geek) water on lithium's and some fire extinguishers are taboo and only create more instant combustion.
I understand the desire to cool the batteries to stop the runaway. I also think without more accidents they will leave the recommendations there.
Do a google for lithium battery fire water. There are guys videos of people cutting open batteries (not in thermal runaway) and dropping parts in water to instant ignition; which brings even more questions to how TSA...........
Personally I would like to see a commission to study the dangers and the alternative containment.
19th Feb 2011, 19:04
One thing I was able to do was download a temperature program to the motion tabs to help monitor temps. They were notorious for getting too hot and locking up. While the temp was taken from the cpu, and not the most accurate temp reference, it did help us keep up with it some. Our motions tabs typically go so hot they spent half the time between the visor rail and the vent.
I am really not sure why the FAA say that.
Maybe because it works?
I frankly think they have not studied it enough.
They have studied it enough to produce a persuasive video on their studies some 4 years ago and not to have changed their advice in the interim.
My experience with the FAA fire people at Atlantic City is that they are very good at what they do. They produced a series of series of reports on arc-faulting on the inside of the insultation of wiring in common use in commercial aircraft that well anticipated all the stuff that came to light at and after TWA 800.
None the less in hobby circles (yea I am a techno geek) water on lithium's and some fire extinguishers are taboo
An airplane is not a hobby club.
There are guys videos of people cutting open batteries (not in thermal runaway) and dropping parts in water to instant ignition
Oddly enough, one of the least observed reactions to a laptop battery spontaneously catching fire is to take a knife to it and then drop the severed parts in water.
I think you haven't thought the situation through. Let's try again. You are in the situation on an airplane in which someone's laptop has a battery which has caught fire. What do you do?
The FAA has answered this question, many years ago. And they have made films to show people why and how their suggestions work. Now it's your turn to do better. But until you tell us how you do better, how about leaving the current best advice alone and not try to tell everyone it's wrong?
I would like to see a commission to study the dangers and the alternative containment.
I see. You don't consider the FAA fire people competent to study it, and also not the CAA and their contractors? How about going through the CAA report line by line and telling us where it's wrong?
19th Feb 2011, 20:41
I have a lot of background which I am not about to lay out.
Suffice to say I don't agree. I understand the reasoning for cooling the laptop. BUT IF it has ruptured, it WILL ignite. I don't know what the FAA has tested but I do see them inact procedures with superficial data then when enough people get killed they examine it harder.
If you truly question the lethal application of water try it yourself. Worn out lap tops are cheap enough and your tech department probably has a couple to test. Testing was my whole premise. I don't see any testing; just a lot of guesses.
I don't presume to know the best solution but it would not be hard to try several things with real test. I really don't see why some main stream flight departments are not doing so.
19th Feb 2011, 21:01
This is a piece of a lithium camera battery dropped in water:
YouTube - Disposable lithium battery strip reacting in water (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yM9_fX-rwDs)
Here is another lithium battery cut up and dropped in water.
YouTube - danger, flames, water and lithium? interested yet? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7abq34mckg)
Non of these batteries are running away; they are cold. Does this work the same for Lithium Ion, other Lithium polymer batteries? If an electronic devise is shorting out you may be ok if it has not ruptured. Do you know it has not?
What do you do when this happens to passengers in the back and you don't find out till you see or hear a ruckus. Do you throw water on it?:
YouTube - Lithium Ion battery fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJCZ4ayioCU)
No I am not confident of the answer.
Congratulations on your considerable background!
Now answer my question: what would you suggest instead, and why? And why does it work better than what the people who have investigated this issue have proposed?
Consider this a chance to show us your superior skills and knowledge. But don't evade the question.
....it would not be hard to try several things with real test. I really don't see why some main stream flight departments are not doing so.
The answer, patently, is: (a) because the FAA and the CAA and various other bodies have already performed quite extensive tests; and (b) because the flight departments of airlines are not equipped to perform those tests for themselves.
I take it you are inexperienced with how safety issues get approached and resolved in aviation?
19th Feb 2011, 21:18
I am not sure why the hostility but I explained much of this in earlier post. I also know that class D fire extinguishers are the only one accepted. Halon fire extinguishers can react with the lithium making it worse.
Why should I "guess" how to deal with it? I have told you the limitations, problems and issues. I would specifically look toward containment in containers which starve the electronic devise of oxygen, contain the smoke, and keep the molt ant fireballs contained.
If you have FAA videos or data of water experiments on laptops I am sure everyone would love to see them. I never have seen them and I don't know of anyone who has.
no hostility on my part. Just decades of experience in getting people who think they know better to say what they think they know, and comparing the result with what is already out there. It's part of my job.
So far, you're doing much less well than the first two minutes of the FAA video, or the first six pages of the CAA report. They tell me what to do if my laptop (which I often have with me) has a battery fire when I am flying.
You are telling us you doubt all that, but you also say you are "no expert". That information so far does not tell anyone what to do who is experienced a laptop battery fire when flying. Which is the subject of this thread.
When I challenged you explicitly to give better advice, you declined.
This discussion may be a little uncomfortable for you, which I regret, but it does make the situation clear for other readers, namely that you have no useful advice to offer, even when asked explicitly.
19th Feb 2011, 22:48
I have stated the opinion that I would like to see the investigation of this taken to the next level. I believe test should be done and published for all to see. If it exist I would love to see it.
I have also posted many unanswered questions. I don't claim to be an expert but I am quite aware of the dangers. Perhaps I know enough not to be satisfied with the answers given by government people who have shown in the past to be reactive and not proactive.
I did work on a Truck GPS research project at one time and we looked into portable GPS devises. We quickly learned if we could not meet 2 requirements we were not going to bring lithium batteries into our project. The 2 things are:
1. A research team the size of say Toshiba to do battery and electronic design with controlled charging and temp monitoring with test to satisfy the insurance
2. The ability to absorb the consequncse of a fractional percent of catastrophic failures. So much as dropping a laptop just right can puncture a battery without knowing it.
Being in airplanes I don't consider .001% catastrophic failure acceptable.
I did make another post showing some videos but being new here every couple post needs to be approved. It will show up within 24hrs so I won't re-post the data.
Although I have a lot of experience in this area and have my own thoughts I have not presented as an expert because there is a lot of un answered questions. I am not about to say this is what needs to be done. Anyone can do that. I don't believe I am the only one with answers either. The first step is to identify the problem; all aspects of it. Being in a confined space at fl400 with no escape is the primary problem.
Suffice to say I do not believe it has adequately been addressed. There are 2 camps.
A. Those who think the government has done everything it needs to make us safe.
B. Those who think there has not been an accident bad enough for the government to take it seriously.
I am in camp B. I don't blindly rely on others to cover my butt. I would like to see people put their heads together and look at it seriously and publish info for all to see.
Take a look at my other post when it gets through.
20th Feb 2011, 01:51
I posted this earlier but I will try again.
Here are 2 different type of dry batteries not in thermal runaway when exposed to water. Halon is known to do the same thing:
YouTube - danger, flames, water and lithium? interested yet? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7abq34mckg)
YouTube - Lithium Ion battery fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJCZ4ayioCU)
I did find this FAA video which suports what everyone was referring to:
YouTube - Tests on lithium battery fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcd34tt8YPU)
It was not a comforting video. I found issues in several areas.
1. most lithium fires to not start under a fire thus the thermal runaway is not as abrupt.
2. They did not show cooling a cell before exploding only after catastrophic failure which much of the energy of the cell is consumed. With a slower process not triggered by a flame, the cells ruptured long before they ignited. Halon or water would ensure their ignition.
3. When the first halon fire extinguisher was sprayed noticed how one of the cells immediately blew.
4. Everything they did seem to keep the fire burning till it was cooled. It was subdued by overkill. Throw enough gas on a fire and it will go out.
5. This seemed to have an aircraft seat and a side wall but it was not in a confined aircraft.
6. They said don't smother the fire which makes sense but they smothered it in ice. If you look at what happen, the fire was out then the batteries began reacting with the water even after cooled to a safe temp!!!!
At the very least the film does nothing to comfort me. This is why I have shown interest in metal containment devices. A trash can can easily be converted on most aircraft to become a metal containment container to close off oxygen and contain smoke. Lithium may not need much oxygen to burn but once they have consumed their batteries, which happens fairly quickly, the only thing left to burn is the platics in the laptop. A well built container with air tight lids will contain this; without near the amount of smoke which was shown on the approve video.
I recognize there is more then one scenario. In an airplane over charge is not as much as a problem as overheat (laptop on lap with blanket blocking fans), and damage.
What I see is people with a blanket on their lap blocking fans overheating laptops. I have done it dozens of times in motels. Mine shuts off, but in the adverse case the batteries start to swell. One may rupture with out a lot of fire or fanfair...to start (unlike the video with the fire driven by another fire below the laptop). At that point you know you have a problem and you get the flight attendant or crews attention.
The crew, already knowing what to do grabs the trashcan, pulls out the trash bag, throws the laptop in the can. The crew grabs the sealable lid and takes the can to the rear of the aircraft nearest the outflow valves. If all goes well, your done! Compare that to the games they were playing in the video, in a confined space. One must realize just how toxic the gas given off is and ...when they do begin to bust how they ignite everything they touch within a 4 foot radius.
But I am no expert....but this is where I would go in testing. I would also test non-halon and non water extinguishing agents. Many have found a pile of sand to nearly contain these kind of battery fires; not that anyone is going to carry 50lbs of sand....but it opens the doors to alternative ideas.
Returning to the original QUESTION in the first slot of this thread, seeking information on actual inflight incidents involving lithium-batteries --
I was surprised that there were ONLY two incidents recorded in the CSRTG's online data-base (link shown in message #8). Neither of those two involved a LAPTOP computer.
Searching around some other papers, stumbled on an FAA document:
"BATTERIES & BATTERY-POWERED DEVICES
Aviation Incidents Involving Smoke, Fire, Extreme Heat or Explosion
As of August 3, 2010, 113 air incidents involving batteries have been recorded since March 20, 1991"
These incidents were MOSTLY inside cargo & baggage [some Overhead Bin incidents).
This document shows ONE Laptop event, inflight, while in-use:08-AUG-2008
Lithium ion/Type CF623/11.1-volt
Dell laptop computer
While in flight, a passenger on American Airlines flight 1539 from Washington National to Dallas Ft Worth, noticed his Dell laptop was smoking. The passenger removed the battery pack and gave it to a flight attendant. The flight attendant placed the battery in a coffee pot in the aft gallery and poured water and Sprite on it.
Here's a news story from Feb2010, with related analysis of such events:
Exploding batteries on planes: Rare and small risk | Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/02/12/urnidgns852573c400693880002576c7007460e-idUS357721593520100212)
Thanks for posting this info. The FAA is far from perfect and I am sure they will be interested on the posts so far. The stuff about lithium reacting with water took me back 45 years to my chemistry class.
Yes we are still learning..thanks for info.
first of all, welcome to PPRuNe! You will find all sorts of people here, amongst them some people who have worked on and published on the issues of malfunctioning personal electronic devices and other electrical equipment on aircraft, such as myself. (I have even published on this theme a decade ago. But I wouldn't consider myself at all knowledgeable on the chemistry of batteries. I am more interested in the hazard analysis.)
You may also expect what some call "robust discussion".
You have just given us links to three videos. Two of them are by anonymous people. One cuts up a battery. The other lets a laptop battery fire burn. The third is an FAA video, with identifiable people behind it, who are fire safety professionals, and who have names, and whom you can call up on the telephone, which has been presented in public forms since 2007.
Neither of the first two videos are concerned with the theme of what you do if you have a battery fire in consumer electronics on board a passenger airplane. The third is explicitly concerned with that theme, and is filmed by people who are expert on it.
Now, I don't know who made your first two videos. In contrast, I have had some dealings with the FAA fire people, and I do know people at the CAA SRG, and it is evident to me (apparently in contrast to you) that considerable thought has gone into this.
I can also assure you that, given that suspected battery fires have been at the heart of a number of cargo-aircraft accidents, there are a lot of resources going into figuring out how to contain and suppress such fires.
Now, given that, let's look at your position.
First, you made a recommendation that directly contradicted the current best expert advice, based on your self-identifying as "hobbyist" and "not an expert". Now, if you think about it, that is just asking for a "robust" response by people who know more than you do about the matter. So you can hardly complain when you get one.
Second, you said you think the FAA "hadn't really thought about it". This is - let me say, "robustly" - obvious silliness. You very obviously have little dealings, if any, with the FAA fire safety people.
I agree with DERG that we are all still learning about this issue, some of us more than others.
Finally, let me suggest that if you have continual problems with battery fires in motel rooms, you change your battery supplier ASAP.
20th Feb 2011, 12:05
1. I didn't have a battery fire in the motel room. Mine was just overheating. I was just showing something which is similar and happens on airplanes. People put blankets on their laps, set their laptops on and heat is a common problem.
2. I personally have improperly charged...yes hobby batteries...and their failure is not as described on the video and more in line with 100's of videos online and other people I know who have done the same. They were not fed by a fire under the device but allowed to fail in a normal failure rate.
3. The 2 laptop fires discussed by the Citation service center was not reported to anyone. They were actually reluctant to even talk about it. I had to pry a bit to get info. As it turned out the charts the customers were using on the note books were not approved for their operation which brings another reporting problem.
Suffice to say I am not satisfied with where we are.
"I can also assure you that, given that suspected battery fires have been at the heart of a number of cargo-aircraft accidents, there are a lot of resources going into figuring out how to contain and suppress such fires."
Thats easy. Just educate the people who sell the shipping about Lithium batteries.. Then all you have to do is design a packing method that is secure and educate the loaders to keep the things cool and out the sun. If you have ambients of 40C and direct sunlight these batteries will explode.
Once one of these batteries has gone off in a cargo hold...seriously..with more of them in the whole consignment..is there ANYTHING you can do? Switch off the air con...so the flight deck has clean air..apart from that..what else can you do? Land anywhere FAST..? The highway will do anywhere..but FAST.
Suffice to say I am not satisfied with where we are.
I agree wholeheartedly! Neither am I. I am not sure if I know anyone who is happy with the current situation.
I think the pressing issue, though, is cargo, because very very probably people have died, in more than one accident, and it is not clear the measures are in place to prevent it happening again.
Once one of these batteries has gone off in a cargo hold...seriously..with more of them in the whole consignment..is there ANYTHING you can do?
Yes. General thoughts go along the following lines. First, you put cargo in containment vessels which are somewhat more robustly designed than current pallets. The containment vessels can contain thermal sensors (I am not sure if they already do, or only for self-declared "dangerous" cargo) which signal to the suppresion mechanisms. Then you starve the space of oxygen ASAP (flood with CO2, say). And then you cool it.
Wonderful in principle, but there are issues, as follows.
1. Designing the new pallets. This comes up regularly. The first time, I believe, concerning bomb-proofing after Lockerbie. Someone came up with a design that more or less worked (tried out on an old 747 in England), but it didn't prevail. Price-performance, I think. Since then, there have only recently been the computer-printer bombs that anyone has discovered, and none have gone off. The disadvantage to any pallet redesign is the cost. It will likely take a decade for a new design to become pervasive - pallets will be replaced as older ones are scrapped.
2. Thermal sensing and signalling to a airplane fire-suppression system. I think this is technically a solved problem, including the reliability of such systems. If the cargo airlines can control the pallets 100%, then pallet-level suppression might be an easier technical solution. However, all pallets would then need to be considered potentially-dangerous goods (there are suspicions that many clients fail to declare lithium batteries as "dangerous goods", for a variety of reasons ranging from ignorance to cost) and it is not clear this would be the more cost-effective solution.
3. Starving the fire of oxygen. I am not sure how well this is solved. In normal leaky spaces, if suffices to flood the immediate vicinity with something else, but in an airplane pressure vessel the displaced air needs to go somewhere, and that means pumping it out. Pumping stuff out violates the containment principle - maybe you would be pumping out flaming gas?
4. Cooling. I am not sure at all what people are thinking about this. I am not sure how well you can localise a cooling agent, and if you don't localise it then you are going to be cooling a largish airplane structure and that is going to have airworthiness consequences (though unlikely to be as pressing as the airworthiness consequences of an unsuppressed fire.
We had several incidents with cargo 'planes over the last two years.
The consignments which contain the batteries should not be carried as general freight added onto pax flights.
You have specially equiped freighters that can carry these goods.
No longer are they to be shipped in general cargo freighters.
In all cargo freighters you can seal the flight deck from fumes in a much better way than already done.
You make all freight decks ambient temp of no more than say 20C.
These are the techincal challenges. The rest is people management.
These are the techincal challenges. The rest is people management.
Well, no it's not. You have missed out any measures to address my steps 2-4. These are essential for fire risk in any situation in which you cannot control the source completely.
Carbon Dioxide is ideal yes in every way does the job perfectly. You need to seal of completely the flight deck. Thats the big thing..seal off the flight deck.
Carbon Dioxide is COLD in a BIG way. Minus 70C Ice Cold.
SEAL OFF the FLIGHT DECK. Has it's own air supply. Free of gasses to see and breath.
This is a challenge mainly because it costs money.
An ejection pod for pilot exit...only answer for freighters carrying this stuff...cannot control these office nuggets who sell freight space. Most of them are clueless as to just what they are booking.
Then there is a whole bunch of less than responsible people in the third world...i.e. cash money in envelopes.
You will wait a hell of a long time for Boeing to do this..but LuftTek could easily do this themselves with EASA approval..This should be a prority of the Union you have over in Hamburg.
21st Feb 2011, 14:46
This is my conclusion for the discussion. These are some points I still have.
1. The best solutions start with the best questions.
2. When it comes to battery fires; primarily lithium battery fires there are many many situations and there is no one solution.
-small to midsized corporate airplane
-corporate airplanes as small as a phone booth with both passengers and crew having cell phones and laptops on chargers...Yes crews putting cell phones on chargers as they lay on the back panel under charts, coats, etc.
-regional airliners to 747
-Electronic devices containing batteries in cockpit, on someones lap, overhead compartments, or luggage compartment
3. There are many many devices from laptops, cell phones, medical equipment, games, tools, and on and on to even batteries themself. We talk about laptops but cell phones igniting while on people's belt has been reported several times as well.
3. There are several types Lithium of batteries
-and well over a dozen more different type of chemistry's and mixes. All act a little differently.
When you see a devise with smoke coming out, who has time to ask "Sir, what type battery is that?". "I duno, let me read a manual".
4. What ever battery we deal with today, there will be a new battery and a new issue tomorrow. Water and Halon feed these fires today, what about tomorrows new power technology.
5. Isolating battery failurs with CO2 does not stop the battery failure; it needs no oxygen and is self sustaining. It would help however adjacent materials from continuing to burn.
Reading earlier about cooling the battery in a coffee pot; coffee pot containment good......Pooring water worked but only recomended if you can GARANTEE cell rupture.......Any cell rupture and water or halon will feed the fire creating the worst possible outcome, toxic smoke and more toxic smoke. This is what makes the FAA video such a joke. All they have done is feed the cells that have ruptured. It is minimized by the heavy fire which made the rupture consume most of the batteries where a slow rupture or burn would just be waiting for something such as water to ignite it.
6. There are different speeds at which a battery fails and NOT ONE would be relevant to a laptop with a fire burning underneath. If that were the case the fire below the laptop would be more concerning. A laptop test ignited by an outside fire source is simply irrelevant.
-Battery failures could be slow such as an overheat due to blocked fans where the circuitry in the computer was too slow to shut the computer down. You have time.
-Battery failure could be quicker where some one dropped the laptop while putting it in overhead storage and say it fell. In the process terminals were short circuiting in the damage and the laptop was put back in the overhead storage. That would be one of the worst scenarios.
7. Getting control over batteries in cargo would be tough. Even with strict rules batteries are shipped with new camera's, toys, tools, laptops, 100's of phones and many many other items. I don't see controlling batteries in cargo of a passenger craft or a cargo craft a very easy thing to accomplish. If I sell batteries for a project on ebay are you convinced I will disclose it in shipping?
8. The battery fires are not as bad as they seem. Once they explode, burn, etc, much of their volatility is gone. The risk after that is 2 fold:
-What else will it ignite? Other cells of course. Most airplane materials will not burn but clothing and personal belongings will. The lava that spews from these batteries will burn for some time too; and burn hot.
-Effects of the smoke which are worse then the fire in a compartments containing humans (or pets)
-For these two reasons I would push for containment testing.
9. I believe the industry needs to get together to really take a look at it. I still don't think they know what direction to go. In dealing with it I think it needs to broken down into several aspects:
-Adequate ways of containing battery fires...depending on the situation
-Different situations which need addressed
-Small corporate airplane
-In cabin storage
- And on and on and on.......
10. I would like to see the industry lead the way with the solutions. I have never seen the FAA create solutions for things like this. They throw the industry a bone till something worse happens and then they try something else. That is why the FAR's are known as a blood book. The FAA is nothing but a REACTIONARY organization not a proactive organization (sorry FAA guys but I think most of you there would agree).
If I said the FAA has not taken it seriously, let me rephrase that. They have responded to public pressure seriously but not attacked the battery problem seriously; there's a difference.
Industry involvement from:
-Large corporate operators
-Proactive refurbishment companies; I see a lot of opportunities for interior options
-Few other people
11. Safe solutions will involve techniques, technology, and education for everyone involved from the management to the person who throws bags on the airplane.
I am not talking about heavy regulation but about the industry taking it seriously. Before 1985 it was common or macho to fly the ILS regardless of weather even with thunderstorms on the airport or on final. After a Delta crash at Dallas in 1985 it changed how everyone viewed flying near thunderstorms in landings. Anyone who has ever flown a simulator has flown that profile if not once a 100 times.
The worst thing is a group of uninformed people standing around going hmm, what now? Try xyz.....That is what training is for. Figure it out before the accident.
Why should we wait for the equivalent of the 1985 L1011 crash?
In final, charging ...yes hobby batteries (which people ship too)...are charged in containers, clay pots and such. As a rule, Lithium batteries are stored in fireproof containers although few follow this rule. Lets face it, us hobby people who build circuits, write computer programs, and play with electronic hardware create situations a little less safe then commercial equipment (generally). We get to know our dangers and limitations. For that reason I have had one rule when owning a house; My shop is not attached. If I am welding, or creating an electronic device, or what ever, I can sleep knowing what ever I have done I am safe int he house while I sleep.
Here is someone charging a battery in a common manner, although my clay pots are upside right so I can carry it outside:
" The FAA is nothing but a REACTIONARY organization not a proactive organization (sorry FAA guys but I think most of you there would agree)."
They are subject to political pressure in the same way the old USSR operated. The wait until the accident happens. This issue can be solved but the FAA are very timid.. WUSSES.. with mandates that cost the industry MONEY.
Just look at the 737NG scandal uncovered with the structural faults that went out the door at the factory.
Then we have the saga of the MD-11 instability.
FGS you would think they had the ability to progress this issue with ease.
Craftmaster there is a significant difference between lithium cells / batteries used in hobby application and those in consumer electronic devices such as laptop computers, mobile phones, etc. Those in consumer electronics are designed and tested with overcharge protections and also protections against forced discharge. Unfortunately many of those sold by hobby shops lack all of those protections, which is why you have to charge them outside or in a clay flowerpot as you demonstrate.
Bare metallic lithium will certainly react to water. A lithium ion battery will not as there is no metallic lithium. That applies to lithium polymer, lithium iron phospate as well, they don't contain metallic lithium and won't react to water.
As I mentioned in a previous post every incident involving lithium batteries that I've seen reported has been as a result of non-compliance with the correct packing method for cargo shipments, damage to the battery due to improper handling, or in a number of cases conterfeit batteries that had not met the UN test criteria. There have been no incidents where the batteries were prepared in accordance with the regulations.
22nd Feb 2011, 02:39
I have been using laptops for years, in and out of the cockpit...this discussion is a non starter and simply is looking for yet another problem where one doesn't exist. Why don't we start with airline hiring practices, then work our way down to the myth of exploding laptops...
22nd Feb 2011, 05:03
Halon fire extinguishers can react with the lithium making it worse.
Kindly qualify that untrue statement, if you will.
My background, incidentally, includes experience as a firefighter (and hazmat specialist). I'm curious about your views, which thus far are very off-base.
Would you like a couple of tons of these in cargo?
22nd Feb 2011, 08:22
Derg - I'll take your palette of laptops...you get my oil drums, medical waste, sick passengers, magnesium parts, and maybe some odd live ordinance for fun.
22nd Feb 2011, 12:13
Kindly qualify that untrue statement, if you will.
My background, incidentally, includes experience as a firefighter (and hazmat specialist). I'm curious about your views, which thus far are very off-base.
FAA test show lithium cells to return to cherry red while using Halon but continue to do so to keep associated material fires to a minimum.
From the book "A comprehensive guide to the hazardous properties of chemical substances" by Pradyot Patnaik:
"Water, carbon dioxide and Halon extinguishers are ineffective against Alkali metal fires. These substances, include carbon tetrachloride which is used in Halon extinguishers react violently with alkali metals."
"Vigorous reaction occurs when the metal is mixed with water. The heat of the reaction, if not dissipated, can ignite or explode hydrogen that s liberated."
More events from ALPA:
If these cells were vacuum packed would they still burn?
22nd Feb 2011, 12:54
If the lithium is contained it will not burned. Lithium ION is not as bad as Lithium. Some newer polymers are not as bad either.
In say a laptop the cells are pretty well packaged themselves. After the package they are then in a pretty tight plastic battery case. You can do anything you want until they burst. When they burst they can make a small pop and start oozing and smoking or in the case of say a short circuit, they can dump energy fast enough to blow it right through the keyboard.
If you have a battery which is smoking it has likely lost containment. You fight a fire in an aircraft with Halon because it's well all you have.
I always look at operations as odds. Can you get away with it once? 100 times? 1000x? 100,000 operations per day? what is acceptable risk? If this was a discussion of only a 1000 flights it wouldn't even be a topic of discussion.
Thanks for advice. As you will know there have been some fatal incidents on freighters due to fire. As yet we had no formal report on what caused the fires or suspected fires.
Now it would be fair to guess that the cells themsleves could be made in say A then shipped in bulk to B for a consumer product. It is these large consignments that focus my mind.
How could you pack these cells so they are less prone to self ignition? Thats whay I ask about the vacuum. Am I correct in thinking the cells need air to combust...or are the oxides already in the cell content?
22nd Feb 2011, 13:52
I am not sure what the vacuum would do. The energy from the battery failure comes from the battery itself. It does not need oxygen to burn. I would surmise issues in shipping come from damages which cause a short or rupture to the pack.
This was a container which addresses this :
Ventura Aerospace Systems (http://www.venturaaerospace.com/va_products_fss_why.html)
Thanks for the link..
Cargo Foam used in our suppression systems have been demonstrated to extinguish the FAA standard fire in an AMJ container. Cargo Foam has also been used to extinguish sodium fires. Even though the water in Cargo Foam reacts with sodium, the combination with Argon allows a hydrate layer to form around the sodium. This stops the fire.
This looks to be the answer.
22nd Feb 2011, 14:19
Your information is inaccurate and dated.
Carbon tet was used in various extinguishing agents, and was part of the propellant in various Halon extinguishers some time ago. It's a hazardous material, and one significant property lead to it's demise in extinguishers quite a few years ago. Carbon tet in the presence of heat forms phosgene gas, which is lethal. Phosgene gas is better known as a chemical weapon used in WW1 and WWII.
Carbon tetrachloride was used in early fire extinguishers (early 1900's), but was dangerous and fell out of favor, losing ground to other preferable agents. Today, it's not used for firefighting. Carbon tet extinguishers fell into disuse in the 50's. An interesting innovation of carbon tet use was the grenade system, which used a glass or frangible globe containing tet which was thrown into a fire. These were early 1900's innovations, also long outof disuse. They make great museum pieces, if you can find them.
A few years ago, numerous extinguishers were still available using old stock which did provide hazardous byproducts in a fire, including some use of carbon tet. This isn't the case now. A thread that's several years old addressed some of these hazards on this site; I won't bother retyping my comments there: http://www.pprune.org/dg-p-general-aviation-questions/351123-fire-extinguisher.html
For now, the discussion touches on the use of halon on a lithium fire. The FAA determined that halon wasn't particularly effective on a lithium battery fire. The FAA did not determine that halon increased or worsened the fire, as it does not.
Your comments in the thread thus far are ill informed and misleading.
22nd Feb 2011, 15:15
You can beat your chest all you like but the main point is we are not where we should be. FAA is only going to react to industry failures. This is really on the shoulders of industry to find better solutions. Poring water on and spraying a halon fire extinguisher on a spewing lap filling a small cabin with massive amounts of un-breathable heavy toxic smoke is not a solution.
We can all beat our chest an question the definition of what "is" is, or what defines the term expert but that doesn't bring anyone closer to anything.
22nd Feb 2011, 17:53
There's no chest beating going on here. In fact, you previously posted in this thread stating "I have a lot of background which I am not about to lay out." The only person "chest beating" is you.
I don't suppose any of that background includes firefighting and hazardous materials, does it? Your responses in this thread strongly suggest that not to be the case.
You did previously correctly state "I am not well versed on how a fire extinguishers work but I know some have to be avoided." Attempting to expound to the contrary, as you've done, is inappropriate.
Have you ever seen robot wars?
No, but you do realize that this is an aviation forum?
You apparently aware that this conversation already took place following the loss of UPS 6.
I think that, to get taken a little more seriously, craftmaster, there are a few tropes to give up.
First, that the FAA fire safety people know little about fires. They know a lot, and they are very good at what they do. If you are interested in inadvertent fires, you should get to know them.
Second, you need to stop propagating any "advice" which is different from that currently being proposed by airworthiness authorities. Theirs is based on research and testing, whereas yours appears to be based on a superficial knowledge of battery types and technologies, on some of your own self-described limited experience, and on some anonymous internet videos. A little more social responsibility is in order. You need to take on board the advice of people with experience dealing with fire hazards in aviation contexts, for example the FAA fire safety people.
Third, if you don't like the advice given by FAA fire safety people, then look a little further afield, such as the UK report cited here, for example, which was written on the basis of contract research performed by an industrial lab.
Fourth, a little more discriminative subtlety in your hazard analysis (if one may glorify it with such a phrase) would help. Crew using laptops in cockpits are using devices with batteries whose risk of fire is very low indeed. All of the problems with cell phone batteries to date, as well as most of the problems with laptop batteries, except for a batch that came with some Sony machines a few years ago, are with "aftermarket" batteries, many of which do not have the quality control or inbuilt hazard-mitigation structure of the batteries which OEMs install in their devices. There lies a simple mitigation strategy for the hazard of electronic-device fires in cockpits: don't use aftermarket batteries. However, it is difficult to prevent passengers from doing so, which means one needs a different strategy for the cabin. There is one for the airplane in general in most jurisdictions: no laptops or other consumer electronics with large long-life batteries in checked baggage. There is a third: no hazmat cargo on passenger airplanes. All those batteries have to get from where they are built to where they are going, however, and while one imagines most cheaper products are shipped by sea, some of them find their way onto pallets on airplanes, not necessarily classified as hazmat. That, apparently, is where the freight people have what seems to be a major problem. But that is worlds away from portable computers on the flight deck.
Everyone agrees that portable-electronics-battery fires are a problem. It doesn't help solve the problem to suggest that people who have been working hard on that problem for years, with some success, really don't have a clue.
23rd Feb 2011, 14:19
If the FAA is truly testing these, good for them. This is exactly what I have been talking about:
YouTube - FAA TESTING OF THE HOT-STOP 'L' LAPTOP FIRE CONTAINMENT BAG.wmv (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjJifmTikYk)
5th Aug 2011, 18:13
The biggest problem is that battery design is changing faster than regulation can keep up with it. Many new batteries are being sent I suspect without being submitted for testing....and that's apart from those that aren't even being declared.
Some airlines may be tempted to ban all lithium batteries, but unless the handling agents can detect every battery a ban will not work. Shippers will deliberately or ignorantly not declare them. The dangerous goods regualtions are so complicated with lithium batteries I would suggest many shippers are tempted to misdeclare them. Compliance is too awkward.
In my view the authorities must quickly move to penalise ANY shipper found to have misdeclared such batteries, whether deliberately or innocently, to get the message out there: these sort of batteries can be very dangerous to aircraft. And by misdeclaration I also mean if someone declares them but also does not correctly classify them by their specific physical properties, pack them in accordance with the correct packing instructions and comply completely with every detailled aspect of the applicable regulations. You can't forbid them from aircraft. New technology batteries are such an integral part of everyday life, a ban will not work.
From FAA's site:
Press Release – FAA Proposes $175,000 Civil Penalty Against MIT (http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=13083)
"... a fiberboard box containing 33 electronic devices ... Aug. 25, 2009. Each electronic device consisted of a lithium battery attached to a circuit board and tube-like container.The package was discovered with smoke and flames coming from it while it was moving on a conveyor at the FedEx sorting facility in Medford, Mass. Two of the devices in the package heated and melted, which caused the surrounding cushioning and packaging to catch fire. ... package was not properly labeled ... did not know the shipment contained hazardous material. ... unsuccessful attempts to extinguish the flames with a fire extinguisher.
"... batteries were not packaged in a manner that would prevent a short-circuit that could create sparks or generate a dangerous quantity of heat...."
As you have all discussed, the problem is most crew are not aware of the issue and do not know the best way to fight a Lithium Fire.
The best fire extinguisher to use on them is water not halon, as water not just puts out the fire but also cools the battery cells.
After studying the recommendations from many sources, we have produced a free short online course that we have made available to anyone. The course is aimed at Flight & Cabin Crew but is also recommended for personnel that handle baggage and cargo. You can view the course at XXX and just follow the links.
The course has a link to the FAA video on YouTube
XXX - bit close to marketing, methinks. Anyone interested should PM the poster for details. JT
14th Feb 2012, 08:31
A few years ago I had a Motorola mobile phone battery overheat and start smoking while in my trouser pocket. I was in WH Smiths at the time with an armful of shopping, and had to leave in a hurry while being chased by the store staff....
Anyway, got outside and the phone was almost too hot to touch, but I managed to get the battery out - and the discharge and overheating stopped.
Moral of the story? If the battery isn't "in place" in a device its unlikely to discharge and so overheat. Make passenger remove batteries from phones and computers before boarding
Incidentally - I returned the phone and battery to Motorola for checks - and they said the problem was due to "water damage" - which was absolute rubbish.
I don't care what anyone else may say - personal experience proves that lithium cells are a serious risk. I could've had me b******* burnt off!
31st Jan 2013, 19:27
It looks like the industry is in fact moving away from water which is disastrous and shifting to containment bags.