Some specialist fire containment bags used to deal with fires on board aircraft may be mislabelled.
The claim comes from the Federal Aviation Administration in the USA that says some manufacturers are claiming that their bags are ‘FAA certified,’ or ‘successfully tested by the FAA’ or ‘meets FAA standards.’
But the FAA says: “This is not the case.”
The Fire Safety Branch of the FAA, William J Hughes Technical Center and the Aircraft Certification Service said: “There are no FAA test standards for these containment products, nor is there a mechanism in place for the approval of these products.”
The concerns surfaced after computer giant HP recently recalled 50,000 laptop computers over worries their lithium ion batteries could ignite, causing fires that might erupt in flight.
Although the FAA does not formally approve specific fire containment bags they insist that liquid is needed in the bags to ensure the device is being properly cooled down.
The formal advice from the FAA states: “Once the fire is extinguished, containment devices can be used to secure the portable electronic device. Keeping an unstable device cool is critical. In order to do so, any such containment device should be capable of holding liquid so that the device can be submerged during storage.”
Several major airline companies now use AvSax fire containment bags which use water in the cooling process.
They are used to deal with burning electronic devices ranging from laptops and mobile phones to e-cigarettes.
They were deployed on aircraft 20 times in 2017.
If an electronic device starts to seriously overheat or emit smoke the cabin crew will pour at least two litres of water into an AvSax and then drop the burning device into the bag, adding additional water as required. The water activates the polymer gel inside the bag causing it to expand around the device. Should the device keep on venting then the AvSax is tough enough to absorb the force.
The AvSax cools the batteries in the device, reducing the likelihood of the battery catching fire but if it does go into what is known as thermal runaway when all the battery cells catch fire at incredibly hot temperatures it is all contained within the bag.
Amazingly, the water is absorbed into the internal lining of the bag so the device is dry when it is removed.