Vapes and e-cigarettes were the main cause of lithium battery incidents on passenger planes in 2022 … even though you can’t even use them on aircraft.
The startling statistic shows that lithium batteries can overheat and go into what’s known as thermal runaway, sparking a fire even if they’re not being used.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration which oversees aircraft safety in the USA: “Electronic smoking devices like vapes and e-cigarettes contain lithium batteries and are considered dangerous goods due to their risk of smoke, fire and extreme heat. As such, they are restricted to on how they can be packed when preparing for travel on an aircraft. These devices were the leading cause of lithium battery incidents on aircraft in 2022.”
Last year there were 58 incidents on planes caused by lithium batteries and 23 of them were caused by smoking devices.
Since records began in 2006 there have been 422 lithium battery incidents recorded on US planes or aircraft in US airspace. Of them, 84 were sparked by e-cigarettes or vapes, 53 by mobile phones and 51 by laptops.
These figures only cover the USA so many more incidents will be happening worldwide yet are not published.
When lithium batteries overheat they go into a chemical process called thermal runaway and when this happens 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 then very difficult to put out.
The most recent lithium fire on a plane happened in Europe when an e-cigarette sparked a fire on board an easyJet plane which made an emergency landing minutes later.
The easyJet Airbus had just taken off from Geneva in Switzerland on Thursday, May 18, 2023, when passengers heard a popping sound and then smoke started to spiral from an overhead locker.
According to the Aviation Herald, when crew opened the locker they found two pieces of luggage in flames.
It’s thought the lithium battery in an e-cigarette inside one of the bags had gone into thermal runaway, setting fire to the bag and the flames then spread to the other bag. The crew managed to extinguish the fire.
The plane with 191 people on board was climbing at around 7,000ft when this happened so the pilots abandoned the climb, donned oxygen masks and then landed back at Geneva 16 minutes after taking off.
The most recent incident in the USA happened on April 7, 2023, when a vape began to overheat on a United Airlines flight. The vape was placed into a thermal containment bag and the aircraft continued to its destination. No-one was hurt.
In February 2022 there were three fires on aircraft in the USA in just five days caused by vapes.
Thousands of aircraft worldwide now carry AvSax lithium battery fire containment bags which won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK for their innovation – the highest award any business can get.
They are now on board around 16,750 aircraft operated by more than 100 airline companies worldwide, including some of the best-known names in the aviation industry.
AvSax have been deployed in action at least 33 times on board aircraft since 2017 and on every occasion the aircraft was able to continue safely to its destination with no need to divert or make an emergency landing.
To make flying as safe as possible vapes, e-cigarettes and all personal electronic devices should be kept in the cabin, not in checked luggage, so if there is a problem with the battery the crew can deal with it. These devices should never be charged in the aircraft.
For more on AvSax go to www.avsax.com