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HomeAircraftHelicopterMain Discussion › Lithium Batteries & Plane Cargo Holds
12-08-2004 09:43 PM  13 years agoPost 1
Linley

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Rockville Centre - LongIsland, New York

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FOUND THIS ARTICLE IN THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER

Iam not against Lithium batteries - I use them in all my heli's
But I do try to keep aware of recent developments

Possible battery fires may bring new rules
After fires that have been traced to lithium batteries, federal regulators are considering new rules

December 8, 2004

Federal regulators are growing increasingly concerned that shipments of lithium batteries - such as those used in cameras, watches and portable electronics - carried in the cargo hold of passenger jets could trigger a fire like the one that brought down a ValuJet plane in the Florida Everglades eight years ago. (that crash was not caused by batteries)

Sources say the Federal Aviation Administration is pushing for a ban on shipping the batteries in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft. "They don't want another ValuJet," one federal source said.

Hard to extinguish

The new push comes after a June report by the FAA showing that lithium battery fires cannot be extinguished by Halon, the fire suppression agent required in the cargo holds of commercial planes, and after an August lithium battery fire at the Memphis, Tenn. airport. In the past five years, three other cargo fires have been traced to the batteries.

In a statement yesterday, the Department of Transportation said it "expects to announce soon new regulations governing bulk cargo shipments of some lithium batteries."

The crash of ValuJet Flight 592 killed 111 people. Six minutes after takeoff from Miami, the pilot of the DC-9 reported smoke and fire in the cabin as a fire raged in the cargo hold. The fire burned through the plane's flight control cables; three minutes later, Flight 592 smashed into the Everglades.

The fire was blamed on oxygen cannisters, not batteries. The crash prompted safety fixes, due to concerns about fires in a cargo hold while the plane is aloft. Commercial aircraft are now required to have both smoke detectors and fire suppression systems in their cargo holds, which are inaccessible on passenger planes.

But a lithium battery fire on a plane would render part of the safety fix - the fire suppression system - worthless.

In a report from the FAA's technical center in Atlantic City, issued in June, one battery tested sprayed white-hot molten lithium that researchers said could burn through the cargo liner, designed to protect the rest of the plane from fire. The tests were conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration on two types of lithium batteries commonly used in cameras.

The issue focuses on bulk shipments that are carried on cargo holds where batteries are not monitored.

The nation's airline pilots are concerned. The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 64,000 passenger and cargo airline pilots, says the batteries should be banned from the cargo holds of both passenger and cargo airlines until new packaging standards are put in place.

"The severity of this issue requires immediate attention," the union wrote recently to the DOT's Research and Special Projects Administration, the agency that makes rules on hazardous material transportation.

Popular products

Lithium batteries began to be more widely used in the 1980s and have become increasingly popular. They are more expensive than traditional batteries but can be made smaller and hold a charge longer. "They are used for higher-value products," said Rick Erdheim of the National Electrical Manufacturers' Association, a trade group that represents battery manufacturers.

Erdheim said the industry has shipped billions of batteries safely. "A battery packaged properly and handled properly is not a problem," he said. The industry opposes banning the shipments from passenger planes, and said he questions whether a ban would include shipments of cameras with batteries installed.

A spokesman for Duracell, which manufactures one of the batteries involved in the FAA test, said the company "supports efforts to improve transportation safety" and noted that the batteries in the FAA test did not ignite on their own.

The issue came on the radar screen in 1999 when a shipment of lithium batteries caught fire at Los Angeles International Airport. The pallet of 120,000 Sanyo lithium batteries was being loaded off a Northwest Airlines passenger flight from Osaka, Japan, when it fell on its side, damaging the packaging. The batteries touched each other and short-circuited.

Battery industry experts point out that the pallet was mishandled. But the incident raised a troubling question - what if the fire had started after the plane took off?

"These things should not be left on their own in the cargo holds. You can flood the cargo hold with Halon and it doesn't do a thing," said Bill Kauffman, an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Michigan who has studied on-board aircraft fires.

After the 1999 cargo fire in Los Angeles, the National Transportation Safety Board said the batteries should be banned from passenger aircraft. In 2000, the Research and Special Projects Administration responded that the agency is re-evaluating the hazards but could not justify a ban on using passenger aircraft, citing economic consequences as one reason. The agency then published a notice advising shippers to exercise caution with shipments.

Since then, three more cargo fires have been traced to lithium batteries. On April 12, 2002, a shipment caught fire at Indianapolis International Airport. On Aug. 9, 2002, a fire at FedEx's hub at Los Angeles was traced to a lithium-battery-powered personal organizer. And on Aug. 7, 2004, a shipment of lithium batteries caught fire at Federal Express' Memphis hub just after it had been loaded onto an MD-11.

More juice, but at a cost

Lithium batteries pack more energy and have a longer life than standard batteries, but they have drawbacks.

HOW IT WORKS

Lithium, accompanied by charged electrons, moves from negative plates to positive plates.

This flow of electrons produces electric current for the appliance.

During recharging, the lithium and electrons are forced back into the negative plates, allowing for reuse.

DRAWBACKS

Lithium batteries require protective polymers to prevent overheating.

Lithium cells are more fragile, and damaged or overcharged cells can lead to fires. Lithium combusts with explosive force and burns at several thousand degrees.

The batteries' outer plastic coating can melt, fusing the batteries and adding to the fire's intensity

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12-08-2004 10:27 PM  13 years agoPost 2
tim tompkins

rrVeteran

Boston, Georgia sw Ga. Thomas County

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danger?
I say that if people knew how dangerous gasoline is they would never drive the way they do. Driving like an idiot with 25 gallons of gasoline inside their car has got to be as nuts as anything we do .

TimT

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12-08-2004 11:00 PM  13 years agoPost 3
Peter65

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Roxby Downs, South Australia.

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Sad fact is that these batteries have recently made the media where they have exploded in poeples phones while in their pockets

Possible solution would be to put all batteries into airtight conatiners and vacuum seal them. No air, no fire. unless they cause some type of reaction that creates oxygen?

Laughing at yourself will lengthen your life. Laughing at me will shorten it...

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12-09-2004 12:47 AM  13 years agoPost 4
dkshema

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Cedar Rapids, IA

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Try designing commercial and military avionics that need to have non-volatile read/write memory and tell the airframer that you intend to use lithium batteries on board to keep the RAM alive during power outages. They don't like them. You have to fight tooth and nail to get a waiver to do so, and then demonstrate and verify how you will meet their safety criteria.

Dave

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12-09-2004 03:57 AM  13 years agoPost 5
corey11

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Bay Area, California

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Possible solution would be to put all batteries into airtight conatiners and vacuum seal them. No air, no fire.
sounds good, but there might be a problem...say you are at 9,000 feet above sea level. then you decend down to 30 feet above sea level...i would think that the bag could get so tight because of the pressure change, it might split, and also makeing the battery pack slpit....just a idea....

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12-09-2004 04:04 AM  13 years agoPost 6
Ted Toth

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Myrtle Beach S.C.

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The new push comes after a June report by the FAA showing that lithium battery fires cannot be extinguished by Halon, the fire suppression agent required in the cargo holds of commercial planes,
I thought Halon works by removing or replacing the oxygen
it works in jet engine fires in flight why not for batteries?

.

You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stopped laughing.

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12-09-2004 04:19 AM  13 years agoPost 7
Greg McFadden

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Richland, WA

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part of the problem is that lithium can react with not only raw oxygen but a host of other chemicals. It can even rob oxygen from some oxydized substances.

here is a quote
Lithium takes part in a huge number of reactions, with organic reactants as well as with inorganic reactants. It reacts with oxygen to form monoxide and peroxide. It’s the only alkaline metal that reacts with nitrogen at ambient temperature to produce a black nitrure. It reacts easily with hydrogen at almost 500ºC (930ºF) to form lithium hydride. Metallic lithium’s reaction with water is extremely vigorous. Lithium reacts directly with the carbon to produce the carbure. It binds easily with halogens and forms halogenures with light emission. Although it doesn’t react with parafinic hydrocarbons, it experiments addition reactions with alquenes substituted by arile and diene groups. It also reacts with acetylenic compounds, forming lithium acetylures, which are important in vitamin A synthesis.

and yet a bit more
Stability:
Normally stable. Solid rods, wire or shot will not ignite spontaneously in air at room temperature, although they will react with moisture or CO2 in air. Dust or finely divided metal can ignite spontaneously in air at room temperatures.

Hazardous Polymerization:
Does not polymerize

Incompatibility - Materials to Avoid:
WATER - Forms explosive hydrogen gas and corrosive lithium hydroxide.(1,2,4)
HALOGENATED HYDROCARBONS (e.g. carbon tetrachloride) - Can react violently, especially on impact.(1,2)
ACIDS (e.g. nitric acid) - Vigorous burning.(1,2)
METALS (e.g. mercury) - Interaction to form amalgam is violently exothermic and may be explosive.(1)
CONCRETE or REFRACTORY MATERIALS - may react violently at high temperatures.(1)

Hazardous Decomposition Products:
Hydrogen gas, lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate, lithium oxide

Corrosivity to Metals:
Molten lithium attacks cobalt alloys, iron alloys, manganese alloys, nickel alloys, vanadium, beryllium and chromium

Stability and Reactivity Comments:
Molten lithium attacks plastics and rubber.(2)

The silence often, of pure innocence persuades, when speaking fails

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12-09-2004 03:08 PM  13 years agoPost 8
Methodical

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Fairbanks, Alaska

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Fact of the matter, lithium is dangerous.

It doesn't need air - the reactant metals are already inside the packaging. Once they go "critical", anything nearby goes as well (more batteries on a shipment? bad luck!).

Lithium polymer is bad.

Lithium Ion in metal cells is better... but can still cause problems. If they have a serious problem, they dont just vent flame - they will flat out explode.

Get a button cell (those really tiny lithiums for hearing aids), hook it up to a high wattage charger in a safe place, and see what happens. Multiply by 20 for "the real deal"....

hint: its dramatic.

In my humble opinion, and anyone can feel free to quote me on this.... the decision to use lithium batteries in your helicopters, is like the decision to use hydrogen gas in the hindenberg.

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12-09-2004 08:29 PM  13 years agoPost 9
w.pasman

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Netherlands

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I can understand their problem

But their "solution" seems completely nonsense. They suggest to ban it from the CARGO hold??? That will NOT make any difference.

I mean, everyone will take these batteries with the hand luggage instead, and in fact most people probably are already doing so (think about cameras, laptop, mobile phones , etc etc). I dont see any difference between the effect of a lithium fire in the cargo hold and in the cabin. The litium may burn a hole through the hull and/or burn flight electronics/wiring in both cases.

However, in the cargo hold they might be able to create fire-proof crates holding the luggage [I thought they already had bomb-proof crates???]. I dont think that's an option in the passenger cabin.

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12-09-2004 09:11 PM  13 years agoPost 10
mrNoodles

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Borlänge, Sweden

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Sad fact is that these batteries have recently made the media where they have exploded in poeples phones while in their pockets
Nokia phones?!

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12-09-2004 11:14 PM  13 years agoPost 11
cczarnik

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Music City, USA!

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But their "solution" seems completely nonsense. They suggest to ban it from the CARGO hold??? That will NOT make any difference.
The difference is that there are people in the cabin to fight the fire. Valuejet didn't know there was a fire until it was too late. I think the final conclusion was that the fire was likely burning before the plane left the ground.

I think there is also a rule about carrying lighters (e.g. smokers). Folks can carry them on, but you cannot check them. Same rationale I would think. Chuck

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12-10-2004 04:08 AM  13 years agoPost 12
helichulo

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Queens, New York

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I want to thank Linley from LI, NY from bringing this article to RR. I just read this article in wednesday's Newsday and even though I do not use Lithium(I use Nicad) some of my friends do and i thought we should know more about these batteries.

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12-10-2004 06:09 AM  13 years agoPost 13
debogus

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Beauklahoma,peoples republic of mexifornia,USSA

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SH$T not again
And once again the panic starts.
I have never seen a report of a lithium battery going off all by itself.

NEVER

Think about all of the lipos in use vs the reports of lipo fires.

How about clue the stupid baggage handlers to
quit being so careless with the luggage and cargo.

Fughin Morons goin to ruin it for everyone.

Dave

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12-10-2004 03:47 PM  13 years agoPost 14
w.pasman

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Netherlands

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The difference is that there are people in the cabin to fight the fire.
I dont think they have equipment onboard to handle lithium fire.... If they have, they could put it in the baggage hold as well, as automatic system.
Valuejet didn't know there was a fire until it was too late.
I thought that they knew about it but could not do anything about it as they didn't have equipment for it.

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12-10-2004 04:07 PM  13 years agoPost 15
Crusty

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N51 degrees 29.823 minutes W3 degrees 16.133 minut

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Coincidently I e-mailed the CAA two days ago for clarification on their carriage in uk airspce, they have yet to respond

I am dsylexia of borg..resistance is fruity...your arse will be laminated

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12-10-2004 04:40 PM  13 years agoPost 16
cczarnik

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Music City, USA!

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I dont think they have equipment onboard to handle lithium fire.... If they have, they could put it in the baggage hold as well, as automatic system.
Regardless of what equipment they have or don't have, common sense would say that if you ahve something that presents risks -- lithium batteries, oxygen canisters, space heaters, whatever..... KEEP AN EYE ON IT... If I'm on a plane that has a fire, I'd much rather see it in the cabin than in the hold.. You catch it earlier and at least you have a chance to fight it.

In the Valuejet situation, they think the canister reaction was started when they were loaded, and that the fire was underway before the plane got off the ground. I'd like to think that if this had happened in the cabin SOMEBODY would have had sense enough to push the little overhead button??

The real issue here is when the Dept of Homeland security figures out that these batteries can be used as terrorist tools, and they'll be banned from planes all together. Then we won't have to worry about where to put 'em Chuck

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12-10-2004 09:42 PM  13 years agoPost 17
NZ_Neil

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Auckland, New Zealand

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For a Cellphone, laptop, or a LIPO in a new Futaba TM14z the manufacturer has probably take lots of care to ensure the batteries are protected (electronically & physically).

Our model industry using generic packs with poor quality connectors is what scares me. I have used the "Astro Flight 3 Pin Zero Loss" on my 8s4p6000 Lipos for my Raptor (and on my Zoom) because they looked like the best connector to gauruntee the +ve & -ve leads never contact and have some stress relief on the solder joint.

Deans plugs are dangerous because there is no stress relief for the wire soldered to the side of the contact blade, so when the solder joint fails start running.

The seperate connectors like "Bullet", "Jeti", or "MP Jet" connectors are dangerous because the two battery leads have nothing to stop the two leads comming in contact. The connectors are covered in cheap heat shrink which in time frays at the edge where you connect them to the model. Again if this happens in a cargo hold jump (with or without a parachute) is you best bet.

I dont think it will be long before Lipos start getting a bad name in aviation circles and it will be the connectors used on the batteries that will be the main cause not necessarily the technology itself.

My best recommendation to the LIPO battery manufacturers is to standerdise on a good quality plug that minimises a short both on the battery pack side and the model.

Go here to see the connectors I am talking about (Look under accesories) : http://www.espritmodel.com/

Neil Harker
New Zealand

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12-11-2004 12:01 AM  13 years agoPost 18
dkshema

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Cedar Rapids, IA

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Lithium batteries already have a bad image with the airlines, the manufacturers, and the avionics suppliers. Simply because they DO explode and burn furiously, sometimes with no apparent reason.

BUT -- there is work being performed that is beginning to show promising results -- that will allow you to have lithium batteries, all that energy density, and at the same time, minimizing the explosion and fire hazards.

It will take a while for this to be perfected, but it's out there.

Dave

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12-11-2004 03:23 PM  13 years agoPost 19
w.pasman

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Netherlands

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I agree that bad connectors create a risk. But that's the same for NiCads etc. So following that reasoning they should ban all batteries

So far I'm happy that my LiPo's came WITHOUT electronic safety. That would be just another problem dealing with them and another potential failure place. And of course extra weight and volume.

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