A crew member on an air ambulance helicopter was badly hurt when lithium batteries caught fire … in his pocket.
The batteries left the crew member on the Air Evac Lifeteam aircraft with second and third degree burns and needing hospital treatment.
Air Evac Lifeteam is the largest independently owned air ambulance service in the United States, with more than 125 bases and what happened to their crew member is one of 8 incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the USA about lithium battery fires so far in 2022.
This means there have been 357 aviation related incidents involving lithium batteries carried as cargo or baggage recorded by the FAA since January 2006. These are just the events that the FAA is aware of – there may well have been many more.
In the latest incidents a laptop went into thermal runaway on a passenger plane in flight. The fire was extinguished and both the laptop and battery were placed into a thermal containment bag by airline personnel. There were no injuries and the aircraft landed without further incident.
On another plane a passenger’s portable power bank overheated while in flight. The device was charging a mobile phone when it went into thermal runaway and began to emit smoke. Cabin crew placed it into a thermal containment bag and the aircraft landed safely.
In other lithium battery fire incidents on aircraft so far this year a passenger was hurt when a mobile phone overheated.
And an e-cigarette went into thermal runaway during a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago. It was submerged in water and placed inside a thermal containment bag.
Thermal runaway happens when one cell in a battery overheats it can produce enough heat – up to 900°C (1652°F) – to cause adjacent cells to overheat. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare repeatedly and they are very difficult to put out which is why AvSax battery fire containment bags are needed.
AvSax are the world’s best-selling fire containment bag for PEDs on aircraft and are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 80 airline companies.
They have been used 33 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017 and every time they have been deployed the aircraft has been able to complete its journey safely with no need to divert or make an emergency landing. Diversions can be very costly to the airline company and can even run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Many air ambulance helicopters in the UK now carry AvSax. More than 20 helicopters operated by specialist aerial emergency medical services company Babcock were equipped with AvSax following a detailed look into the possible risks posed by lithium-ion batteries on aircraft.
AvSax won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK in 2018.