TSA restricts lithium batteries on airplanes

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by TH O, Dec 29, 2007.

  1. TH O

    John Navas Guest

    Not to worry -- this is just another example of Argument by Absurdity.
    John Navas, Jan 11, 2008
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  2. The FAA ran tests and discovered that cabin and hold area fire
    suppression systems didn't work reliably on lithium battery fires, if
    the batteries were bigger than a certain size. That included multiple
    batteries in a single bag. If one of them lit off it could ignite other
    lithium batteries in close proximity.

    Lithium is a very reactive material in the same class as sodium and
    potassium. Once it starts burning, water or CO2 will not necessarily
    extinguish the combustion. There are already restrictions on materials
    or objects reckoned to be dangerous; oxygen cylinders, for example were
    the cause of an airliner crash a few years ago and their carriage on
    board aircraft is closely regulated. There are now enough lithium
    batteries in common usage that the FAA has issued instructions to limit
    the quantity of such batteries that can be carried in both hold baggage
    and cabin baggage, and how they should be carried.

    The TSA is tasked with controlling the numbers and types of
    Li-technology batteries transported on board aircraft; they did not
    suddenly wake up one day and decide to do this themselves.
    Robert Sneddon, Jan 11, 2008
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  3. TH O

    C J Campbell Guest

    Or you, either. TSA is not managing all risks. Driving people away from
    the airlines with ridiculous rules increases their chances of dying in
    automobile accidents. You think that does not cost billions?
    C J Campbell, Jan 11, 2008
  4. TH O

    John Navas Guest

    "Assumes facts not in evidence."
    John Navas, Jan 12, 2008
  5. TH O

    John Navas Guest

    Naughty, naughty -- actual facts are off-topic here!

    John Navas, Jan 12, 2008
  6. DOCKET NO. SA-228

    15-May-06 Lufthansa
    Lithium-ion Laptop and spare battery
    Shortly before flight departure, a burning smell was detected in the
    first-class cabin of a Lufthansa ORD-MUC flight.
    Maintenance personnel were called to check and found it was coming from
    hand luggage inside the overhead bin above seat 2A. At this point, the
    flight attendants evacuated the passengers in first class and first 2
    rows of coach class. Crew used extinguishers to prevent setting off what
    was seen as the beginning of a slow fire. Maintenance immediately
    brought the bag outside the aircraft onto the ramp where it started to
    catch fire. Fire dept was called to assist. Fire was eventually put out.
    It apparently started from the extra battery pack for a laptop that
    belongs to the passenger seated in 2A. Flight departed
    1 hour 18 minutes late.

    03-MAR-2006 FedEx incident report
    Lithium ion button cells, mfr. by Lixing
    US-bound package was noticed to be smoking at outbound FedEx station in
    Shenzen, China. Upon inspection, the package of lithium ion batteries
    was discovered to be on fire.

    29-JUN-2005 FAA
    Lithium Ion Battery-pack
    At UPS in Ontario, Calif., a package shipped from Shanghai containing a
    lithium-ion battery pack caught fire. No obvious signs of rough

    29-OCT-2004 Greensboro FSDO briefing paper and media accounts
    Ultralife 9-volt lithium
    (traditional 9-volt form: rectangular with two terminals on top)
    Passenger (Charter)
    Shortly after departure, the battery exploded in the hand of a cameraman
    traveling on the VP campaign plane of Sen. Edwards (the cameraman
    reportedly was in the process of changing batteries). It spewed shrapnel
    and ignited a fire in the seat which was extinguished by flight
    attendants and others. The flight crew declared an emergency and
    returned to Raleigh-Durham airport without further incident.

    Transport Canada
    CR123 lithium batteries Flashlight
    A flight attendant lent a passenger a flashlight which was recently
    purchased in Beijing. The passenger dropped the flashlight while it was
    on. Later the passenger put the flashlight in a seatback pocket. A few
    minutes later, the flashlight began to emit smoke and noxious
    fumes. The flashlight became so hot it could only be handled with oven

    ...and those are just some of the lithium battery incidents. For all
    types of batteries, the report runs 11 pages.

    Gene S. Berkowitz, Jan 12, 2008
  7. TH O

    Roger (K8RI) Guest

    The point is the fires that have been caused in airliners were the
    result of either illegally shipped cargo, or *bulk* shipments of

    As for carry on, the lap top battery is probably by far the most
    dangerous as far as energy contained, BUT that energy is still small.
    The fires caused by a self destruction battery are intense, but very
    short lived. In a cabin they represent only a small threat, but one
    far more than even a pocket full of AA Lithiums of the same capacity.
    It is almost impossible for 3 or 4 loose AA's to cause a short. Try to
    connect even 4 or 5 of the things. You can't do it. OTOH two of them
    in a pocket full of change and a key chain can make life exciting, but
    still not really dangerous.

    From a fire and energy standpoint there is no valid reason for the
    level to which they are going. Nor does it barely register on the risk

    Above all other risks pilots fear fire, yet I think you will find few
    who think this ban will do much of anything more than cause

    BTW, a couple of us here happen to be pilots and neither of us agree
    with the ban.

    Roger (K8RI)
    Roger (K8RI), Jan 12, 2008
  8. TH O

    John Navas Guest

    I disagree with most of that, but don't have the time for a detailed
    TSA disagrees.
    Pilots aren't paid to assess and manage safety, thank God, because I've
    seen way too many commercial pilots trying to fly when barely able to
    I happen to be a pilot as well, and I have no problem with the ban.
    More importantly, I have no problem with it as a passenger either.
    It's only a very minor issue, and it might just make flying safer,
    which make it fine with me.
    John Navas, Jan 12, 2008
  9. TH O

    Roger (K8RI) Guest

    It is quite likely they will never be able to manage *all* risks.
    We know some people don't fly due to perceived risk, others don't fly
    due to the annoyance of the time to get through inspections. Others
    are just plain intimidated by the TSA. Had 9/11 not happened what
    would the number flying be now?

    When it comes to risk, look at the stats. You are far more likely to
    die in an automobile accident than in an aircraft. Each year we kill
    between 43,000 and 50,000 people on the highways in the US alone. The
    number maimed is many times that. This results in *Billions* of
    dollars in medical costs and even more in lost production. The
    overall cost is Staggering. One AP story quotes the cost in just the
    North West US as 2000 deaths and the resulting cost being over 8
    Billion dollars. 2000 is only4.6% figuring an overall death toll of
    43,000. Multiply that by 10 or more for medical costs, lost wages,
    and lost production for those maimed and injured.

    In 2005 (last year figures are available) we flew nearly 600,000,000
    passenger miles while there were almost 4 Billion 900 thousand
    passenger miles in cars, or roughly 8.8 times as many miles in

    The odds of a fatality in a passenger car accident are one in 7,700
    while they are one in 2,067,000 for air carriers based on figures up
    to 2003. Air carrier safety has improved since then IIRC.
    These figures show you are almost 27 times as likely to be killed in a
    car crash than a commercial airliner

    Every person who stops flying adds quite a burden to the airlines who
    are already struggling.. When finances get tight, corners get cut.
    It's a fact of life.

    Roger (K8RI), Jan 12, 2008
  10. TH O

    Guest Guest

    and how many pages are there for other potential risks?

    the chance of a lithium battery igniting is still very very small. i'm
    a lot more worried about mechanical failure or human error, such as
    this near-disaster today:


    ATLANTA -- A Delta 757 and an Atlantic Southeast regional jet came
    within three seconds of a disastrous runway collision Friday at
    Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
    Guest, Jan 12, 2008
  11. TH O

    John Navas Guest

    Fair enough.
    TSA is actually doing the right thing by TRYING TO MANAGE _all_ risks.
    You're speculating.
    It could be 10's or 1000000's.
    Which doesn't make a persuasive argument.
    Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.
    And again, the numbers are highly speculative.

    I'm willing to bet that the new battery regulations won't have any
    material effect on either the number of people flying or the airlines.

    If there nonetheless was such an effect,
    TSA would almost certainly back off.
    John Navas, Jan 12, 2008
  12. That was my take on reading the fine print. It seems that there was _one_
    unexplained fire that _might_ have been caused by a _shipment_ of batteries.
    It seems to be complete and total brain damage. The liquids ban was pretty
    much equally stupid, though, as I understand it. (There are chemists who
    claim that it really wouldn't be possible to make a bomb in the toilets.)

    Both of these strike me as typical examples of bureaucracy gone out of
    control, desperately trying to find excuses to justify their existence, when
    there really aren't any. (By the way, I'm not anti-government at all: the
    FDA, FEMA, and OSHA get my full and (nearly) unqualified support.)
    Thanks for your comments. It's nice to hear from someone who actually knows
    something about this.

    David J. Littleboy
    Tokyo, Japan
    David J. Littleboy, Jan 12, 2008
  13. Of course, but is there raw elemental lithium in those batteries which
    can burn like that? Or is it safelly bound up in a chemical compound
    such as sodium is in the sodium chloride of table salt, which is not a
    fire hazard of any kind.

    What worries me is that many of our politicians, lawyers, and other
    professionals engaged in making up safety regulations don't actually
    know the difference between a chemical element and a chemical
    Chris Malcolm, Jan 12, 2008
  14. The TSA regulations don't stop people carrying individual batteries --
    everybody on board could have a laptop with a lithium battery fitted, a
    digital camera with a lithium battery fitted, a mobile phone etc. etc.
    That could add up to a lot of batteries in total. The worry is having a
    bunch of batteries together in a single bundle which are not fitted to
    equipment that will keep the terminals from shorting out accidentally.

    Unfortunately some battery cell and battery pack makers cut corners;
    I'm in the process of chopping up some third-party camera battery packs
    to re-cell a laptop's battery pack (as a member of Joe Public, I can't
    buy these cells over-the-counter so this is the only cost-effective
    method to get hold of the cells I need to do the job). The (Chinese, I
    think) camera pack's regulation circuitry is crude compared to the
    original manufacturer's (Olympus) design, and is almost certainly less
    safe wrt preventing shorts and a fire.

    Fire systems on large passenger aircraft have capacity limitations;
    once all the CO2 or equivalent gas is used up there's no more
    avbailable, and it could be an hour or two before the plane can get to a
    diversion airfield if it's on a transatlantic or transpacific flight,
    all the time with a fire in the hold which isn't guaranteed to be out
    and which might flare up again. The FAA believe they can extinguish a
    small lithium fire with the systems on board; they're not so certain of
    putting out a fire in a large clump of lithium batteries stored together
    in somebody's luggage. If they're spread out in different places in the
    hold then there's less chance of the fire from the first battery
    reaching the others and setting them off.

    ISTR the ferocious warnings given out on each flight nowadays about the
    Federal penalties for disabling the smoke detectors in toilets. That was
    due to some poor soul, deprived of his nicotine fix on a long-haul
    flight sneaking into the toilet to have a quick smoke then disposing of
    his butt in the waste-paper receptacle. Did that incident cause the loss
    of an aircraft? I can't recall.
    Robert Sneddon, Jan 12, 2008
  15. TH O

    John Navas Guest


    Lithium-ion batteries can rupture, ignite, or explode when exposed to
    high temperature environments, for example in an area that is prone
    to prolonged direct sunlight.[39] SHORT-CIRCUITING A LI-ION BATTERY
    CAN CAUSE IT TO IGNITE OR EXPLODE, and as such, any attempt to open
    or modify a Li-ion battery's casing or circuitry is dangerous. Li-ion
    batteries contain safety devices that protect the cells inside from
    abuse, and, if damaged, can cause the battery to ignite or explode.

    Contaminants inside the cells can defeat these safety devices. For
    example, the mid-2006 recall of approximately 10 million Sony
    batteries used in Dell, Sony, Apple, Lenovo/IBM, Panasonic, Toshiba,
    Hitachi, Fujitsu and Sharp laptops was stated to be as a consequence
    of internal contamination with metal particles. UNDER SOME

    [emphasis added]
    This is a real hazard. Manufacturers otherwise wouldn't be spending
    hundreds of millions of dollars to recall and replace them,
    John Navas, Jan 12, 2008
  16. TH O

    John Navas Guest

    When one lithium-ion battery overheats, ignites or explodes, it can
    trigger a chain reaction in adjacent lithium-ion cells (or batteries),
    greatly increasing the severity of the problem. See the other post I
    just made.
    John Navas, Jan 12, 2008
  17. TH O

    Allen Guest

    Bureaucracies are always ou of control; that's what makes them different
    from proper organizations. Look at the derivation of the word:
    government by bureau. One horrible example of this was the old IBM
    structure, abolished when new management was brought in from the outside
    perhaps a dozen years ago. They had something like 23 groups in their
    org chart, and the head of each of those groups could kill any projected
    new product coming from any of the other groups; for instance, the head
    of European typewriter sales could veto a new mainframe computer. (Note:
    this is not a real case, just a hypothetical example.) The person who
    developed the PC for them ignored the established procedures and
    produced a product in record time was "promoted" to a job the equivalent
    of being in charge og recycling whiskbrooms.
    Allen, Jan 12, 2008
  18. TH O

    John Navas Guest

    That's dead wrong on both counts. On the latter count, the IBM PC is
    credited to Philip Don Estridge, To quote Wikipedia: "By the time he
    gave up leading IBM's PC division (known then as Entry Level Systems) in
    1985, the division had 10,000 employees and annual revenue of $4.5
    billion. Don and Mary Estridge perished in the crash of Delta Air Lines
    Flight 191 at Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas airport on August 2, 1985 along
    with several other IBM executives."
    John Navas, Jan 12, 2008
  19. TH O

    Mike Guest

    Do a Google Search on "Lithium Battery". The Wikipedia entry that comes up
    as your first choice has as its first line:

    Lithium batteries are primary batteries that have lithium metal or lithium
    compounds as an anode

    Later in in the artcle you can see that the lithium battery technology
    covers a wide range of compounds. Lithium metal is used in the disposable
    batteries, while lithium compounds are used in the recharcheable ones.
    Mike, Jan 12, 2008
  20. TH O

    John Navas Guest

    What matters is not whether the lithium is elemental or not, but how
    reactive the materials are, and the material in lithiom-ion batteries is
    very reactive, which is why internal safety devices are essential.
    Failure of the safety devices (as in the defective Sony batteries) can
    result in a cell igniting or exploding, with temperatures of hundreds of
    degrees Celsius, setting off a very nasty chain reaction in adjacent
    cells (or batteries).
    John Navas, Jan 12, 2008
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