It makes it bloody hard for the airlines to mitigate the risk that these devices pose. It's not as though these are isolated incidents, but, how do
you mitigate it? It might come a time where airlines will only permit transportation of said devices in secure containers given our propensity to be
glued to our devices this might be the only solution that they have available to them.
posted on 12-9-2016 at 16:01
NY Times Article 09/12/16: As More Devices Board Planes, Travelers Are Playing With Fire--Lithium Batteries Fire Hazards
I presume that we have all heard about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery fire issues; this article examines in depth the long standing, &
documented incidents, re lithium batteries catching fire, AND the larger issue of SOME airline passengers refusing to take common sense precautions to
The very last paragraph IMO says it all, and is equally applicable to drones & self-driving cars.
Verbatim c & p:
The Federal Aviation Administration, citing fire hazards, has warned against using Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones on aircraft. Three Australian
airlines and the German carrier Lufthansa have outright banned their use onboard.
But the threat of airliner fires is not limited to Samsung devices, which the company has offered to replace. And the hazard is far more than
Qantas, one of the Australian carriers, had an onboard fire during a trans-Pacific flight this year when a passenger’s cellphone was crushed in the
mechanism of a business-class seat and the phone’s lithium-ion battery ignited.
In January as a Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta arrived at the gate, crew members discovered that a carry-on bag containing two
laptop computers had burst into flames, according to the F.A.A. The smoke prompted some passengers to use the emergency exits and wait on the wings
until help arrived.
The problem is lithium-ion batteries, which have become the standard for portable consumer electronics, including phones, tablets and laptops, because
of the power they can pack into a small package. They are also highly volatile.
Battery fires were considered a contributing factor in the crashes of three cargo planes in the last 10 years: an Asiana 747 in 2011, a UPS 747 in
Dubai in 2010 and a UPS DC-8 in Philadelphia in 2006.
In January, the F.A.A. issued a warning that lithium-ion batteries in a cargo hold carried the “risk of a catastrophic hull loss” on an
So far there have been no airliner disasters specifically attributed to passengers’ digital devices. But experts worry about the sheer mathematics.
The Royal Aeronautical Society in Britain estimates that even a single-aisle jet with only 100 passengers might have more than 500 lithium-ion
batteries aboard. Those numbers, and the attendant fire risks, could eventually catch up with the air-traveling public.
The question is: What to do about it — besides issuing advisories?
The F.A.A. administrator, Michael P. Huerta, said in an email statement that the agency recognized that the batteries posed risks and that it was
tracking all incidents in aircraft cabins “to help us determine what we can do.” Mr. Huerta urged passengers to put their devices “in a carry-on
bag or other safe location” when not using them.
But the F.A.A. is in a tough situation. Under the regulatory rules, it cannot ground the Galaxy Note 7 until the Consumer Product Safety Commission
orders a recall. On Friday, the safety commission said it was working with Samsung on the terms of a recall and urged owners of the phones to stop
using them. On Saturday, Samsung offered new guidance to owners: Turn off your phone and bring it in for a replacement.
Congress has limited the F.A.A.’s ability to place restrictions on battery-powered devices on airplanes beyond the recommendations of the
International Civil Aviation Organization, according to Laura Brown, an F.A.A. spokeswoman. The organization, a United Nations agency, says the
devices should not be transported on passenger planes as cargo or in checked baggage. As for in-cabin use, the organization defers to each country’s
Any attempt to seriously restrict or even ban devices powered by lithium-ion batteries would probably face an outcry from travelers, who have come to
consider them an indispensable part of modern life. There would also be the question of who would enforce such rules, and how. Airport security
check-in processes are already long and tedious, without adding a new layer of scrutiny.
Until a few years ago, before the in-cabin use of phones and other electronic devices was allowed below 10,000 feet, it was widely known that
passengers surreptitiously defied the rule. Flight attendants complained that it was impossible to police.
So the goal is to contain the hazard. In the event of a lithium-ion battery fire in flight, F.A.A. standards may help minimize the damage.
Seat covers, carpets, curtains and dividers are made of special materials that are flame retardant, even against a lithium-ion battery fire, which
burns in the neighborhood of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Isidor Buchmann, an engineer who runs the informational site
Some experts say those standards could suffice.
“It’s damned near impossible to propagate a fire on an airplane,” said George J. Ringger, an aeronautical engineer with his own consulting
company who specializes in cabin interiors. “Could a passenger get burned? Yes. Would there be smoke that would propagate in the cabin? Do crews
have protocols? Yes.”
But some other fire and safety experts are not as sanguine. A laptop battery fire could take hours to burn itself out. And the smoke emitted would be
abundant and toxic.
Michael Gilchrist is an engineer and co-owner of PlaneGard, a maker of a case meant to contain the fire and smoke if a battery starts to malfunction.
Customers include Air Tahiti Nui, which carries the PlaneGard case on transoceanic flights.
“With a full-blown laptop, you see what happens,” Mr. Gilchrist said. “You have a 35- or 40-minute event. That could cause a lot of
There is no global database with comprehensive information about battery fires from electronic devices in the cabins of passenger airplanes. The
F.A.A.’s tally — 19 fires in the last five years — is based on what the agency’s spokeswoman, Ms. Brown, called an “informal list.”
The Australian authorities investigating the Qantas event in May found that there had been 17 episodes in their jurisdiction during the same
A spokesman for the airline industry group, the International Air Transport Association, said its members had reported 24 cases in which a battery
overheated and caught fire or released smoke in the passenger cabin.
But Mr. Gilchrist says events often go unreported. “The reporting is horrendously bad, but if you sit and talk with a pilot or an aircrew, they’ll
say it happens once a month,” he said. “This is not a remote occurrence.”
In 2013, after considerable pressure from customers, airlines began allowing passengers to use electronic devices from gate to gate. As the number of
devices passengers typically carry has increased, more accommodations have been made for their use, including USB ports that let people watch
in-flight movies on their own devices and electrical outlets for chargers.
“The advent of electronic devices, as well as an electric plane, raises new issues that ought to be addressed very carefully by the regulatory
authorities,” said N. Albert Moussa, founder of the fire safety company BlazeTech and a consultant on airplane fire hazards.
Although the Samsung recall is renewing public awareness of the problem, Mr. Moussa is not optimistic that it will prompt long-term solutions.
“Historically, the community takes real action,” he said, only “when an accident happens.”