Many planes are still flying without fire containment bags on board to deal with problems caused by overheating lithium ion batteries.
The batteries spark fires in small electronic devices they power ranging from mobile phones to laptops and these kind of incidents are happening more and more on aircraft.
The industry-leading fire containment bag is the AvSax which has been deployed on aircraft 31 times since January 2017 and 15,373 AvSax are now on aircraft operated by 75 airline companies across the world – including some of the biggest and best-known.
AvSax asked pilots and cabin crew via LinkedIn what kind of containment devices they have to deal with overheating lithium ion batteries at 30,000ft and some of the replies were surprising.
One said: “Although we have a dedicated fire drill simulator for our crew training we don't get any hands-on training regarding Li-ion batteries … which are obviously a primary target of concern. We don't have a dedicated fire containment bag on board my type of aircraft. For containment we would probably use an emptied trolley and use water for cooling, depending on the exact type of device and its location when the fire occurs. I believe a particular concern regarding this problem is crushing mobile phones or tablets by the electrically actuated business class seats.”
A cabin crew member said the planes he is on also have no fire containment bags, adding: “Until today, I was lucky and never had such a case.”
On the other hand, a pilot revealed that a plane he flew was well-equipped.
“In my previous company we had containment bags, one on the flight deck and two in the cabin I think,” he said. “They told me they had a situation with one of the cockpit EFBs (iPads) starting heating up and producing smoke. They put the iPad into the containment bag (filled with water I think) and threw it out in the galley to isolate it from the flight deck. Procedure was then to keep the bag in the middle of the galley with isolated material underneath and under supervision at the remainder of the flight. In my current company I actually don’t think we have such a containment bag.”
A pilot revealed a friend of his who is also a pilot once had a burning laptop in the cockpit which he threw into the cabin for the cabin crew to deal with.
He added there was “a scary number of incidents” of fires in personal electronic devices caused by lithium ion batteries.
Another pilot said: “It has never happened to me in the past 28 years and we don’t have any fire containment bag. I will talk to the chief of safety in this regard that they should put some fire containment bag on board the aircraft.”
Yet another said: “I have been in a position where there has been an incident like you mention on a fleet I used to manage. Fortunately, containment bags were on board - I was one of the first to introduce them in the UK.”
A cabin crew member said lithium ion battery fires were taken very seriously in her company.
She said: “Lithium batteries are now a massive part of our curriculum where it is delivered and then theoretically and practically assessed in both initial pilot and recurrent training.”
A pilot added: “Our company does have a procedure in place and we do carry fire retardant bags on board.”