LiPO Fire onboard Fijian Airlines B737

3689614928?profile=originalThe Australian Transportation Safety Bureau published its report in relation to a cargo hold smoke event involving a Boeing 737.

The smoke was detected by the airline Captain during the external inspection on the tarmac during preflights.  The source of the smoke was later identified as being some LiPO batteries for a UAV.  The passenger failed to declared the LiPOs when asked at check in.  The ATSB revealed that the passenger was an Australian certified UAV operator.

Australian civil aviation safety regulations permit LiPO batteries to be transported as CARRY ON as long as they are <100WH and are packaged to prevent short circuits.

I frequently travel on aircraft with LiPO batteries, and before I travel all the terminals and balance leads are taped with electrical tape.  They are stored in LiPO safe bags, and then transported in a pelican case as carry on.

It makes sense to take every precaution because I'd rather not be on a plane that crashes because of a LiPO fire.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • Moderator
    Hans that is incorrect there is no limit if the battery is less than 100wh. The limit is two batteries for 101 to 160 and with the airlines permission. Over 160wh not permitted.
  • This incident, and Hai's comments strike a nerve with me, as I had a bad situation with airlines and LiPo's two years ago.

    While on my way out to Colorado, for AVC 2013, I was bringing a significant amount of batteries for my helicopters.  4 4S 5000's, and some number of smaller batteries.  I taped up the terminals securely, put then in fire-proof bags, and then a Pelican case.

    When security looked at this, they went into full freak-out mode.  I was passed along a succession of people, none of whom understood the regulations, or wanted to take responsibility for allowing me to board after demonstrating that I complied with the regulation.  Basically, after informing them that I did meet regulations, they passed me on to another person who started questioning what I was doing over again from the beginning. 

    And by the way, the typical regulation is that you are allowed to carry an unlimited number of batteries, where each battery is less than 100 Wh.  And then you are allowed 2 which are between 100-160 Wh, and none that are over 160 Wh.

    Now, there's a bit of an issue with the definition of Wh.  How is it defined?  The Ah is easy for us.  But what voltage do you use?  I assume 4V/cell nominal, but I think industry assumes 3.7V (I don't know why, the battery is almost depleted by that point...)  Anyway, at 3.7V/cell, my 4S5000 is only 74 Wh.  So I should not have had a problem.

    However, the final person I met with, asked me to prove how many Wh the batteries were.  Unfortunately, this is not labelled on hobby batteries.  I informed her that it can be determined by a simple calculation, where Wh = V x Ah.

    She accused me of lying.  As I was about to miss my flight, I left all the batteries behind.  My trip was all but ruined.

    This past year, I boarded a plane with the exact same number of batteries.  I taped up the terminals, but I merely threw them in an innocuous looking lunch bag.  No Pelican, no fireproof bag.  I zipped right through security in both directions with nary a concern.  

    Actually, in Denver airport on the way back, there was this new TSA security check thing where, some passengers randomly get sent through this other line.  I was selected for it.  I was expecting a full body cavity search.  Turns out, it was actually a "fast" line, where they don't require you to take off your shoes, or take your laptop out of the bag or anything.  They Xrayed my lunch bag, and despite seeing a bunch of bricks of semi-soft material with wires sticking out, they didn't question me or even open the bag.

    I was a little concerned by that frankly.

    When a passenger boards a plane with something like this, I think they SHOULD be questioned, and the items inspected. At the least, they should be making sure the terminals are taped up.  They should understand the regulations, how to determine battery capacity, and should not penalize passengers by taking extra precautions of putting them in a fire-proof bag and/or Pelican case. 

  • Shawn, I've never seen any evidence, either impartially scientifically conducted or otherwise, that would indicate that expensive batteries are any different or better than cheap batteries.  The only thing I've ever seen was probably placebo effect or confirmation bias from users trying to justify their purchase of the latest, shiniest battery.

    In fact, when I see professional operators using low cost but quality hardware, I actually give them credit for being more thoughtful and actually understanding how these things work.

    More knowledge, less chequebook.

  • Of course as always your mileage may vary. It's possible that my application isn't as hard on batteries than the next.
  • @OG That is why I was curious. I don't notice any difference in flight time or pack life between my zippys and gen aces of the same capacity. The genaces are over twice the price and I can't justify it over the possible limited performance gain. I've had a 4 zippys in use for 2 years now and they still perform just as well as the gen aces. I don't abuse my batteries so maybe the gen aces can take the abuse better?
  • The idiot was carrying 25+ LiPO batteries as check-in and made a false declaration during check-in, throw the book at the operator.

    The passenger stated during check-in that there were no batteries in their checked bags.

    Either declare batteries as carry on (with terminals isolated, in burn bags, and work around the differing country/carrier LiPO limits) or deliver them to end destination via courier/supplier.

    The ARFF determined that the source of the smoke was a smouldering case. They removed it to a safe location and cooled it with a fine water spray. The ARFF and Australian Federal Police subsequently inspected all four of the bags checked in by the passenger and found 19 batteries intact and an additional 6-8 that were destroyed by the fire.


    Investigation: AO-2014-082 - Cargo hold smoke event involving a Boeing 737, DQ-FJH, Melbourne Airpo…
  • Hans H they are say the limit per person is 100Wh which is 50 cell phone batteries if you are using a 2000mAh average. I could see a pro-UAV operator having more than 10 10000mAh batteries. You can get them sent on aircraft that do not carry passengers ie. couriers, but they need to be properly labeled from what I have seen. Even HobbyKing is restricted this way.

  • If 100 watt hours is the max, is that in total or per battery pack?

    So if a 5000mah 3S is about 55.5WH, you can only travel with one of these. =(

  • Wonder how they cope with the 100Wh limit on a verification?

    All mobile phone batteries are currently's LiPo and on 1200 - 2000mAh. Digital cameras and GPS:s and music players have the same amount. Tablet has 3-5 times more. Laptops doublet up against tablets. Passengers traveling far may have extra batteries or "power banks".

    So each passenger can easily have between 4 - 50 Wh LiPo batteries in various electronic things.

    Commercial aircraft must not have more than 2 to 10 passengers?

  • We're in agreement there TJC/Badman. In my limited experience though the zippys I have perform great and even though I'm strictly recreational now I've got plenty of money floating in the air when I fly. But I don't have a business reputation to tarnish if my inexpensive batteries fail. I agree if you're a certified pro you shouldn't make mistakes like this.
This reply was deleted.