Lithium Batteries

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Sept. 21, 2016

In September 2016, the FAA and DOT issued safety notices related to the Galaxy Note 7, after Samsung recalled the device for safety reasons. Federal hazardous materials regulations prohibit airline passengers and crewmembers from traveling with lithium cells, batteries or portable electronic devices that have been identified by the manufacturer as being defective for safety reasons.

Lithium batteries are used in aircraft in a number of devices. The use in portable electronic devices is probably the most frequent, but they are also installed to provide power for various aircraft systems. When handled improperly, lithium batteries can overheat and ignite, causing fires that are hard to extinguish.

Lithium Batteries in Portable Electronic Devices

As portable electronic devices (PEDs), such as smart phones and laptops continue to increase in popularity, passengers and crewmembers are more frequently bringing these devices on board aircraft. Passengers routinely want to use these devices for the duration of the flight, but one charge or one set of batteries will not always permit that to happen, so spares are brought along. Note that batteries properly installed in the PEDs pose less of a fire risk as long as they are recharged properly.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) permit the carriage of lithium and lithium-ion batteries in consumer electronic devices. Packing of spare batteries is an important consideration. The DOT requires the following with respect to lithium and lithium-ion batteries:

  • Spare batteries must be protected from damage and short circuit. This can be accomplished by:
    • placing the spare batteries in their original retail packaging;
    • putting tape over the terminals of the battery to insulate them; or
    • placing each battery in a separate plastic or protective pouch.
  • Spare batteries may not be carried in checked baggage or in baggage areas not accessible during flight.
  • Loose batteries not protected from short circuit are not permitted to be carried in any part of the aircraft.

The FAA has issued a safety alert for operators (SAFO) providing guidance on how to safely extinguish fires caused by disposable lithium and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The guidance refers to the need not only to extinguish a fire, but also to cool the batteries to prevent thermal runaway and re-ignition.

Resources

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FAA’s Safety Alert for Operators on lithium batteries (PDF, 79 KB)

FAA SAFO 09013: Fighting Fires Caused By Lithium Type Batteries in Portable Electronic Devices (PDF, 24 KB)

FAA supplement to SAFO 09013 (PDF, 24 KB)

FAA Cabin Crew Fire Fighting Training Video (WMV, 204 MB)

FAA Video on Laptop Battery Fires (WMV, 85 MB)

View FAA Advisory Circular 120-80: In-flight Fires (PDF, 119 KB)

Flight Safety Foundation March 2008 AeroSafety World: Thermal Runaway (PDF, 447 KB)

FAA Information: Hazardous Materials Carried by Passengers and Crewmembers (PDF, 604 KB)

FAA Memorandum: Policy and Guidance for Electronic Flight Bag Class 1 & 2 System Architecture and Aircraft Connectivity (PDF, 60 KB)

Latest News

NBAA Warns Business Aircraft Operators of Lithium Battery Dangers
Sept. 21, 2016
The FAA and DOT recently issued safety notices related to the Galaxy Note 7 after Samsung recalled the device for safety reasons. “NBAA strongly recommends business aircraft operators make their passengers aware of the dangers of improperly transported or defective lithium ion batteries,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs NBAA has represented its membership in numerous FAA-industry working groups to develop policies and procedures for carrying lithium battery devices and the use of lithium ion batteries to power various aircraft systems. Learn more about the potential dangers of lithium batteries.