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AIRCRAFT PED FIRES CAUSED BY LITHIUM BATTERY FAILURES
A well known major concern in the airline industry for many years is the inability to effectively contain/extinguish inflight PED Fires on planes (Personal Electronic Device Fire). Sometimes false alarms have even prompted oversensitized crew to turnaround flights besides AOG situations. Passenger and Flight/Cabin Crew daily needs have led to a exponential poliferation of PED use in the form of Laptops, Mobile Smart Phones,EBooks,etc. by passengers and Electronic Flight Bags, EPads & POS devices for crew besides fixed aircraft assets such as Aircraft Emergency Locator Technology/ Personal Locator Beacon devices. This need has even pushed airline governing bodies to allow expanded use of PEDs on board and issue recommendations to make Aircraft PED Friendly. One common factor, ALL these PEDS are powered by Lithium Ion Batteries. On a typical flight,” a single aisle jet carrying 100 passengers could have over 500 lithium batteries on board with none of them needed to be tested, certified or even maintained to manufacturing specs”, as stated in a report by the Royal Aeronautical Society .
While technology improvements have greatly enhanced PED design it has also laid a greater and ever increasing common demand for longer operating time and more powerful Battery design by way of least size to power ratio. This has prompted the defacto adoption of Lithium Battery technology by the Electronics/PED industry since it offers the highest energy density to weight ratio. The large demand coupled with decreasing costs has resulted in an unprecedented global production that has crossed over 7.5 million units as of 2014. Increase in PED production has increased battery energy density that has increased the risk of Lithium battery failure incidents in turn increasing the chances of causing an uncontrollable in-flight PED fire.
Though there are manufacturing safety standards in place, the huge demand for Li Ion batteries and cost reduction drives have led to defects and recalls by many a well known & large PED/Laptop manufacturer with the Grey market not even bothering to do so. Lithium Ion Batteries while being very good, need a stricter charging protocol and have to be maintained well within Temperature/Charging Voltage limits which would otherwise fail the battery and cause a PED fire. While aircraft systems fixed with charging outlets for PEDs are very well designed to prevent overcharging, the Lithium Ion Batteries may fail due to their manufacturing process.
In reality, the actual charging is controlled by the PED electronics. Cost restrictions driven by huge market demand, has also resulted in PEDs that lack the full ability to do so. Thinner battery/PED casing have caused fires when mildly crushed in hand baggage. Lithium Ion Batteries may even fail by themselves while not even being charged due to contaminant migration between their electrodes, resulting in a PED fire. Even newer Lithium Ion technologies cannot solve this problem and the current situation is likely to remain so for a long time due to the sheer volume of Batteries produced.
The nature of a Lithium Ion Battery Fire is marked by a cascading effect called Thermal Runaway, where all the cells fail sequentially , following the failure of one. This is followed by a severe explosive ejection of flaming metallic gel and a high volume of toxic, flamable or burnt smoke. All this occurs with little or no warning, in about 50 to 120 seconds and cannot be putout easily. Covering with Fire Blankets or Ice will make it worse and Hand Fire Extinguishers cannot effectively penetrate the PED body to reach the PED Lithium Battery Fire. Temperatures can reach the melting point of Aluminium, where modern lightweight Magnesium Alloy laptops, if allowed even in a controlled burn, are impossible to putout. Access of burning Laptops inside a backpack and the rapid response time required makes the situation worse.
The result, if not contained and extinguished, can be catastrophic in the panic struck passenger confines, more so in a long haul trans-oceanic flight, with no time to return.
For the very first time in the true sense & spirit of PED fire”extinguishing” as opposed to a “controlled burn”, Flight Fire Containment Systems Inc. brings to the Airline Industry, the Flight Fire Box-FXB-7.
A truly innovative, adaptable, ergonomic, one for all- any size- any PED fire control system with a multifaceted technical approach to Contain and Extinguish in-flight PED Lithium Battery Fire. This together with safe contained transport and the bonus of possible data recovery/PED investigative analysis. The final aim, to remove the one source of worry by an Aircraft PED Fire and ensure a peaceful flight, enhance passenger/ crew safety, protect aircraft asset, avoid expensive turnarounds & AOG situations, reduce ecological damage and truly make the Aircraft PED Friendly & Safe.