MAJOR fears are now growing about transporting lithium ion batteries on board cargo planes.
According to USA Today, rechargeable batteries have raised concerns for years because poor packing or manufacturing flaws can occasionally cause catastrophic problems. Storing batteries in cargo causes concern because that's where a fire could spread unnoticed.
Although incidents of rechargeable battery fires are rare, either in aviation or elsewhere, they do appear to be on the increase.
Government security officials say they have worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that electronics and their batteries are packed and shipped safely.
Concerns about lithium batteries typically focus on large-scale shipments on board cargo planes. Battery shipments were implicated - but not proven as the cause - in crashes near South Korea in 2011, a flight in the United Arab Emirates in 2010 and a flight in Philadelphia in 2006.
FAA testing later found that halon gas used to suppress fires on planes doesn't work well on batteries in a chemical reaction called thermal-runaway where temperatures reach 800 degrees Celsius.
A 2015 FAA report found that "the uncontrollability of lithium battery fires can ultimately negate the capability of current aircraft cargo fire suppression systems and can lead to a catastrophic failure of the airframe."
The International Civil Aviation Organisation decided last year to ban bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries on international passenger flights. On cargo flights, the batteries must be charged to no more than 30% to reduce the likelihood of fires.
But after the Obama administration sought to adopt the international standard for domestic flights, the Trump administration has frozen the regulation for further review.
The Transportation Department banned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones from airlines last October after nearly 100 reports of the devices overheating and sometimes injuring owners. The manufacturer halted production of the device after updated versions continued to overheat, following a recall of the first version.
Airlines adopted special gloves and bags to hold overheating phones and smother them of oxygen, thus preventing the spread of a fire. The best known is AvSax which are now on board several major US carriers.
AvSax (www.avsax.com) can minimise the fire danger caused by electronic items such as laptops on board aircraft in seconds with its unique use of water.
Simply pour at least two litres of water into an AvSax and then drop the burning device into the bag. The water activates a polymer gel inside the bag’s lining causing it to expand around the device. Should the device keep on burning then the AvSax is tough enough to absorb the force.