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FAA Reports Heat In Cargo Holds Can Ignite Laptop Batteries 103

Posted by timothy
from the so-heat-ignites-things dept.
SpuriousLogic writes "US aviation officials are warning air carriers that new research shows lithium batteries are sensitive to heat and can ignite in-flight if transported in cargo compartments that get too hot. The Federal Aviation Administration also acknowledged publicly for the first time Friday that a United Parcel Service 747-400 plane that crashed in Dubai last month killing both pilots was carrying a large quantity of lithium batteries. Since the early 1990s, there have been dozens of incidents of batteries igniting in flight. But it has not been known what triggered many of the fires. FAA now says recent research has identified heat as the trigger and is offering air carriers advice on how to reduce the risk of fire."
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FAA Reports Heat In Cargo Holds Can Ignite Laptop Batteries

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  • by rajeevrk (1278022) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @12:38AM (#33843602) Homepage
    How many times have i heard that when carry my spare laptop batteries(yes, i used to catty a laptop with 2 spares, back in the days of power hungry P-4 Laptops:).

    Just goes to show you that security while flying is about 75% blind luck, 24% the bad guys incompetence, and 1% current airport security(At least here in india).
  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @12:42AM (#33843614)

    Those are not necessarily conflicting ideas... if the temp in the cargo compartment is not controlled, it might be possible for it to get both extremely hot, or extremely cold at times, depending on local weather, whether the plane is on the ground or in flight, etc.

    I imagine Lithium isn't the only thing that might catch on fire in extreme heat, however. Many electronic devices have "operating temperature ranges" and "storage temperature ranges"; although I suppose the airline doesn't care much if they break someone's checked iPod or computer due to letting the cargo temp be too extreme -- it's not until risk of fire, that they become more concerned, and think about banning anything containing Lithium batteries in checked luggage, due to the hazard,

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @12:51AM (#33843642) Journal

    Don't think "too hot" or "too cold" exclusively. Think "poorly controlled temperature and ventilation". A cargo hold can be too hot, too cold, have too little air circulation for pets, and apparently can be hot enough to cause cargo that would be safe in the cabin into a crash hazard.

    Also remember that with delays planes are often on the tarmac or taxiway for hours at a time in the sun with the checked baggage on them but no people. I doubt they're going to air condition the holds in case your laptop is on there. It's better to have special handling procedures for what can be a hazardous cargo.

  • Power (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @01:32AM (#33843726) Homepage Journal

    If airlines provided power to every seat (not just business class) then fewer people would need batteries, and flying might be safer over all.

  • No doubt the idea of over-charged batteries bursting into flame will be floated by alarmists.

    FUD FUD FUD. No doubt the fear of over-reaction by the media will cause conspiracy theorists on internet boards to twist this to try and support their pet theory. The recommendations specifically cover bulk shipments on cargo carriers, not personal laptops from travelers on commercial flights. That is an important distinction. The former makes this a (nearly) no-brainer, and good work by the FAA. The latter interpretation of the headlines make this a great article to get everyone up in arms. Like it seems to have done to you.

    Recommended Action: It is recommended that all air carriers institute additional procedures for safely transporting lithium batteries by aircraft:

    1) Request customers to identify bulk shipments of currently excepted lithium batteries by information on airway bills and other documents provided by shippers offering shipments of lithium batteries.

    2) Where feasible and appropriate, stow bulk shipments of lithium batteries in Class C cargo compartments or in locations where alternative fire suppression is available.

    3) Evaluate the training, stowage, and communication protocols in your operation with respect to the transportation of lithium batteries in the event of an unrelated fire.

    4) Pay special attention to ensuring careful handling and compliance with existing regulations covering the air transportation of Class 9 hazardous materials, including lithium batteries.

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