Oct. 17, 2016

News of recent measures taken by some airlines and the FAA to mitigate the risks caused by overheating lithium-ion batteries in smart phones and other devices serves as a reminder that the issue is a concern for all aircraft operations, including business aviation.

Several U.S. airlines – including Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America – are now carrying, or plan to add, special fire-resistant bags, or similar systems designed to contain fires if devices overheat. Samsung recently announced it would stop selling its Galaxy Note 7, which has been linked to numerous overheating events, including several aboard aircraft.

The FAA has recommended that the devices not be turned on or charged during flights, and then, working with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, has now banned the devices from all commercial flights, even if they are powered down.

“Operators should be aware of the risks posed by everyday electronics powered by lithium-ion batteries,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and International affairs. “These latest events underscore how quickly the mobile device environment is changing. NBAA is engaged with regulators and other stakeholders on the issue and, more importantly, will continue to update members as policies, technology and mitigations evolve.”

The FAA has recorded 129 commercial airline/airport-related incidents globally, involving lithium batteries carried as cargo or baggage since March 20, 1991. The list, which the agency says is not exhaustive, does not include incidents involving business aircraft.

The agency has issued guidance on how to ship batteries, respond to onboard fires and, most recently, handle products that are subject to recalls or banned. NBAA’s web resource includes much of this information, and the association’s resource will continue be expanded as the issue evolves. Review the NBAA resource.

Next month, NBAA is offering a pop-up session in the Innovation Zone for NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), which examines this issue. Presented by John Cox of Safety Operating Systems, the session will update attendees with the latest information and examples of lithium battery events. The presentation, set for 2 p.m. Nov. 2, also will focus on the latest FAA guidance, current training and mitigation technologies.