They have become integral parts of this world – rechargeable and high-energized lithium-ion batteries that power portable electronic devices (PED) like notebooks, tables or cellphones.
Despite the undisputable advantages they offer, battery and battery-powered devices pose a risk in aviation when overheating or exposed to flames, proven by dozens of incidents.
Now aerospace technology specialist Innovint has developed a PED Containment Bag that protects aircraft, cabin crew and passengers from exploding or burning devices on board a plane.
At first sight, they resemble ordinary briefcases. However, when taking a second look the difference becomes very clear. It’s not the size but the material distinguishing Innovint’s latest
innovation from normal attaché cases since the bags area extremely robust, specially coated and completely inflammable. Explains Lars Henschel, Project Engineer at Hamburg, Germany-based Innovint
Aircraft Interior GmbH: “The used materials can sustain temperatures of more than 1000 degrees centigrade, which has been proven also by test series. All what happens in case overheated batteries
stored within the PED Containment Bag start burning or even explode is that they swell, doubling their size within seconds but the fire is immediately smothered.” As visible result only smoke
comes out of the bag’s sides.” He adds to this that the materials the bags consist of provide an even pressure distribution should cell batteries overheat and ultimately blow up.
First airline clients
According to Innovint, a number of airlines have ordered their containment bags meanwhile, among them Singapore Airlines, Finnair, leisure carrier Sunexpress and Switzerland-based Private Air. More will supposedly do so, expects Managing Director Manfred Groening.
Fact is that both crewmembers and passengers on board one of these airlines are less exposed to the risk of exploding lithium-ion batteries during a flight. In case of a sudden warming-up of their tablets, notebooks or cell phones all they have to do is alert the cabin personnel immediately to stuff the defunct devise in a containment bag, sealing its flap, move it away from the passengers to a fire safe place and wait until the burn inside the bag is over and the emitted smoke is fading away.
Upping the safety of pilots
The importance of technical provisions such as Innovint’s bags and their Electronic Flight Bag Kits developed particularly for pilots using lithium-ion batteries powered iPad as navigation aid cannot be assessed highly enough.
Officially documented and well analyzed incidents show the safety hazards these types of rechargeable batteries have posed on aircraft.
Here are just three examples picked out of a frightening list compiled and presented by investigators:
June 6, 2015
After landing in Houston, TX, Mesa flight 4001 was being unloaded when a ramp agent observed smoke coming from a checked bag in the forward cargo bin. The agent removed the bag from the loading belt and sprayed it with a fire extinguisher. The local fire department responded and took control of the bag. The bag contained professional camera equipment with lithium-ion batteries. According to preliminary information, the camera bag was initially brought aboard as a carry-on, but was allegedly checked at the gate because the flight attendant advised that there was no room in the passenger cabin. Preliminary reports also indicate that the passenger made the flight attendant aware of the contents of the bag.
October 12, 2015
DL flight 304, from Montego Bay, Jamaica to Atlanta, GA received a cargo fire warning as it was preparing for takeoff. The flight crew aborted takeoff and activated the cargo compartment fire suppression system and evacuated passengers via emergency slides. 7 bags were found to have fire damage, one bag contained an e-cigarette which overheated and caused the burning.
December 27, 2015
A passenger’s carry-on bag on a JetBlue flight departing San Juan, PR airport caught fire at the gate while boarding. The flight was deplaned and the fire was extinguished, no injuries or fatalities. Actual cause of fire was one of a total of two (2) 9 watt lithium ion batteries with unprotected terminals loosely placed within a small metal box that also contained an e-cigarette (vaporizer) and other non-hazardous items.
However, much graver were these occurrences, including three major aircraft accidents where lithium battery cargo shipments were implicated but not ultimately proven to be the source of the fire: An Asiana Airlines 747 near South Korea on July 28, 2011, a UPS 747 in Dubai, UAE on September 3, 2010 and a UPS DC-8 in Philadelphia, PA on February 2006.
Next to come?
Having obviously placed an urgently needed product on the market developing a containment large enough to secure boxes or larger packages loaded with lithium-ion batteries and flown in the freight compartment of passenger aircraft or loaded on board freighters could be the next challenge Innovint engineers might take on.