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.

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    @OG lots of talk but no links to test data, looks like a serious case of placebo to me. It is true you get what you pay for but in this case I think people are paying for bragging writes. (except improved testing of expensive batteries that is very easy to do yourself on a good hobby king charger)

    @jg Earlier this year I got pulled over, going through LAX, for about 45 minutes because they thought my batteries were explosives.

    @Swift I just put all my batteries in separate plastic bags inside charging bags (this was suggested by an airline flyer). I have a copy of the relevant airline documents saying what I can take on the airline. As I enter screening I also tell them there are lipo's in my bag and that they will probably want to talk to me. And just make sure your Wh is less than 100, (Ah x 3.7 x cell count). Even if you use 4.2 volts you can carry 4s 5000 mAh batteries, you need to be more careful about 6s batteries though.

    Except for having to wait for the explosive expert to show up (he took his time), I haven't been delayed by more than a couple of minutes.

  • @Swift  No problem. You CAN ship it air (overnight, next day, etc) if you want - just has to have a handling label on it. But again, I would rather just ship ground and not risk making the news (and soiling some poor cargo pilot's pants) if it were to catch fire on a cargo flight.

  • I threw a half-charged one at the ground because, well, I want to know what the failure modes are. It made a lot of smoke and a little fire. Surely, it isn't going to take down an airplane. But, there will be a fire, there will be LOTS of smoke, and there will be LOTS of panic. For what? Throw it on a UPS ground (or air, if adequately labelled, though I still prefer ground) track it, and you'll know it makes it to your destination. To me, that's a win-win - less risk, and I don't have to worry about whether a nazi TSA agent is going to not understand the rules and not let it on the plane anyway. 

  • A friend and I have decommissioned a few lipo's using various methods (axes, hammers, guns) and charge states. This was not scientific or even documented, but there did seem to be a relationship between the amount of charge and the amount of fire. I think some of the video's are over dramatized.  In general the the fires are pretty slow and not very energetic. Although I guess an over-charged condition is more dangerous. So I would travel with a reduced charge, like a storage charge.

  • I really don't understand this. We all know how dangerous LiPos can be. If you don't, go watch some youtube videos, or puncture one of your old ones. It's scary, and it would be 100x more scary on a plane. I understand you are legally allowed to take batteries on the plane, but in all but a few circumstances, I almost always prefer to ship them, ground, ahead of time.

  • Badman said:

    "At the least, if something were to go wrong I could stand up in front of a coroner and show the care we took to make sure we were operating at the best of our ability."

    I don't think a coroner has ever seen anyone do that before.... are you sure?

  • The difference between cheap and expensive will be quality control.
    With the cheap batteries, everything they make goes in a box out to the customer with minimal testing.
    You take your chances that at some point you will get a dud, but if you get a good one it is likely to be exactly the same as an expensive battery.

    With expensive batteries, there is far more testing and quality control to ensure that every battery goes out the door with the specs stated and is up to scratch. With expensive batteries, you are also paying for the ones they have to throw out.

    You have two choices, you can buy cheap batteries knowing that at some point you will probably get a dud with a short life but in most cases it will probably be just as good as the expensive brand OR you can always buy expensive batteries knowing that every single one will be perfect.

    It then becomes cost vs benefit. If you are a professional with $3k of kit in the air, it is probably a reasonably low risk to fly cheap batteries and keep your costs down. You can afford more cheap batteries so you have plenty spare for lots of flights.

    If you are a professional with a cinema grade $30k camera strapped on $10k worth of quad, then expensive batteries only make up a small percentage of your total costs and you would have fewer expensive batteries knowing you will never burn all that money due to a faulty battery.

    Using cheap batteries does not make you unprofessional.

  • I didn't like the nanotechs from hobbyking but the zippys performed well. They were bought in the same order and i still use the zippys. The nanotechs were puffed and disposed of within the first year. Still have one gen ace left. This is all in my not so scientific experience. Ymmv.
  • The newer X-ray scan machines can tell what is in the bag.  It would have been obvious to the operator that they were lipo batteries and nothing intended to do harm to the aircraft.  Most machines are actually automated now.  The machine "alerts" the operator to look at suspicious items in bags, or alerts to send them back through the scanner at a different angle for another look.  The vast majority of baggage is scanned this way, and at least in the USA is supposed to make up 100% of the screening very soon.  Your battery wires were not connected to anything that could have caused a threat.  Now if your battery wires happened to be wrapped around a bottle filled with gelatinous liquid, or cheese I am sure you would have been stopped!

  • OG, I would be interested to see whatever evidence you have.  But a few poorly written lines with no supporting material on a blog, from an anonymous person, just don't cut it with me.

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