June 20, 2018
Virtually every air traveler is carrying a device powered by a lithium ion battery, and most passengers are traveling with more than one such device. Over the past several years, the FAA’s Fire Safety Branch, located at the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City, NJ, has been conducting research on the risk of in-cabin fires related to lithium ion batteries and potential methods to mitigate such risks.
“It’s not that any one lithium ion battery is at a particularly high risk of a thermal runaway, resulting in fire,” said Steve Summer, an engineer in the FAA’s Fire Safety Branch, “it’s the sheer number of batteries being carried onboard aircraft that creates the risk.”
With approximately 2.5 million air passengers in the U.S. each day (a figure taking the airline passenger load into account) and a conservative assumption of two-three lithium ion battery powered devices per passenger, the FAA estimates 2.3 billion devices are transported in the National Airspace System each year.
“The main concern for crewmembers is that this is perhaps the only fire scenario that requires them to use more than a halon extinguisher,” said Summer. “A lithium ion battery fire event requires additional procedures and tools that the crewmember needs to be aware of.”
As a result of the Fire Safety Branch’s research, the FAA has developed a number of guidance materials including Safety Alerts for Operators, Information for Operators, Advisory Circulars and more to help educate pilots and other crewmembers of the risks of lithium ion batteries and effective response to lithium ion battery-related events.
At the upcoming NBAA Flight Attendants/Flight Technicians Conference, attendees will hear first-hand from Summer the results of research the Fire Safety Branch has conducted on handling in-flight lithium battery-related fires, and the unique hazards of these incidents.
“We want attendees to gain an appreciation of the risk associated with lithium battery fires, and feel better equipped to handle one, should they be faced with that kind of event,” Summer said. “We also want attendees to have an understanding of guidance materials available, and to have an opportunity to explain the research and data that are used to develop those recommendations.”
Summer will share what crewmembers can expect if they have a lithium ion battery fire in the cabin and specific challenges related to these types of fires. The presentation will also provide an opportunity for attendees to share their experiences and concerns regarding lithium ion battery-related events.
The NBAA Flight Attendants/Flight Technicians Conference takes place June 26-28 in St. Paul, MN. Learn more about the conference.