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Old September 8th, 2010, 05:22 PM   #1
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LiOn battery transport problems...

I shoot and I fly. I follow DVInfo for shooting advice, and PPRuNe for flying. For those who don't know PPRuNe, it's the place on the internet where just about every pilot, aircrew, engineer, spotter, wannabe and airline exec goes to gossip and stay ahead of the game. Stands for Professional Pilot's Rumour Network
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Kind of like DVinfo is for camera operators and editors.

So, in case you missed it, about a week ago, a pretty much brand new UPS 747-400 freighter en route from Dubai to Germany caught fire and crashed - trying to make it back into DXB. Both pilots killed. No casualties on the ground - but that was frankly an amazing bit of luck - a hundred feet of altitude here or there and there could have been hundreds killed.

It looks as though the fire ignited in the cargo hold near the starboard wing root. And the speculation is that the fire might have been started in a consignment of Lithium Ion batteries - like the ones that pretty much all of us now use to power our cameras.

I recommend that all camera operators who travel by air and use Lithium Ion batteries check out this thread on PPRuNe

UPS Aircraft Down In Dubai - PPRuNe Forums

and go to the recent pages (from about 19 onwards) to get an idea of what pilots and aircrew think about carrying LiOn batteries in hold baggage, hand baggage, or freight.

Apparently a US congressman has initiated an inquiry into the carriage of LiOn batteries as a consequence of this accident...

If this kicks off, we camera operators are going to have to start thinking very carefully about how we transport our batteries - if, indeed, we are allowed to transport our batteries....

Last edited by Robert Adams; September 9th, 2010 at 12:52 AM.
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Old September 9th, 2010, 12:57 PM   #2
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Didn't see much "there" there - IOW, it's pretty well known that batteries of all sorts can short and overheat...

Considering that LiON batteries power just about every bit of electronic equipment we use and rely on (including I'd venture some of the aircraft's own systems), and it's a known problem that sometimes they explode/burn, there's only so much you can do.

Don't transport batteries without a cover over the terminals, don't leave equipment powered on in a bag or case, and keep an eye out for recalls on any batteries for "toys" you own, like laptos, cell phones, etc.

AND, (this is just my opinion, but I have my reasons) don't buy off brand import batteries - or knockoffs. I'm going to venture a guess that some of the batteries produced "on the cheap" don't have the same standards, safeguards, or QC that the name branded product does... and some of those still have to be recalled due to bloing up/burning...

FWIW, I saw the news "covering" the crash, your link was far more informative, and I'm sorry to hear the flight crew was lost.
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Old September 9th, 2010, 11:34 PM   #3
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There are DOT regulations about passengers carrying Lithium Ion batteries, which you can find here: Safe Travel

Basically, you can't carry spares in checked luggage. You can carry them installed in the devices that use them, and there are some other regs regarding acceptable sizes and quantities as well.
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Old September 10th, 2010, 01:20 AM   #4
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battery confusion

Dave; thanks - all good advice, though I'm not sure it's necessarily followed - I put my 2 spare Swit 8080 batteries in zip-lock bags, with a strip of Duck tape over the terminals, and pack them at opposite ends of a flight case with the terminals towards the foam padding. Which I thought was fine, until I see Battle's link to the TSA site, which says we can't pack them in hold baggage at all...

Now, like so much airline safety and luggage legislation, this is definitely not applied worldwide. (I find it frankly bizarre that in the most international of industries, legislation should be so haphazard - but that's another issue)

I don't work in the US, so never encounter the TSA. Certainly in Africa, Asia, and Europe I have never come across any written or enforced legislation that stops me checking spare batteries in my hold baggage.

There is a regulation that says that batteries up to (I think) 105Wh can be carried without specific restriction; above that, they need to be identified as HazMat. Battle - on the TSA page I think this is the one that relates to us http://safetravel.dot.gov/larger_batt.html

Incidentally, my Swit batteries (made in China, natch) have a "Safe Transport - Meeting IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations" sticker, with a little aeroplane logo.

I guess the reason for starting this post is a growing concern that the airline industry is increasingly hostile to the carriage of Lithium Ion batteries - and on the basis of the recent past it seems to me a possibility that if, God forbid, a passenger aircraft is lost through a LiOn fire, this type of battery will be banned completely.

It would be useful - not to mention safer - to get industry-wide clarity on (a) the correct way to travel with camera batteries, and (b) what alternatives are available or in research.
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Old October 1st, 2010, 10:48 AM   #5
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Latest on LiOn battery regs

This is the latest on the battery business.

Plane Fires Prompt Battery Safeguards - WSJ.com

Relates mostly to shippers and importers, rather than end users - though it will effect us in price and availability of batteries for cameras and computers etc.

Knowing the way the security side of the industry works, though, I suspect that before too long we individual users will find it harder to transport Lithium batteries.

R
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Old October 5th, 2010, 05:01 PM   #6
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not that the TSA really seems to be doing its job much. i had no idea carrying LiON batts in carry on was not permitted; im usually dragging 10 or so batteries around (most in their devices) and i stick to carry-on only if possible.

no one has ever said anything; although a few times i had to start devices with the spare batteries.
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Old October 7th, 2010, 05:42 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Panagiotis Raris View Post
i had no idea carrying LiON batts in carry on was not permitted; im usually dragging 10 or so batteries around (most in their devices) and i stick to carry-on only if possible.
Actually, CARRY ON is the only way to transport LithIons. Checked baggage is not allowed.

And the regulation states 8 grams EQUIVALENT LITHIUM CONTENT (ELC) is the maximum for unlimited carry on, which seems to translate into approximately 90 watt hours (AB Dionic90's are legal in any quantity according to the literature I carry with me).
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Old October 31st, 2010, 05:45 AM   #8
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Excellent thread about LiOn battery transport problems

Book-marked the pilot and the safetravel links. Thanks for posting them.

Probably all of us who watch the news has heard about the downed airplane due to the LiOn batteries, but speaking for myself, I wasn't "thinking ahead" about my own batteries when I fly and this thread is an eye-opener.

Just about anyone who buys a camera will need to buy a larger battery to power it because the one that comes with the camera is usually really small - to keep the initial price down of course. So, now you already have a second battery - and they're almost always LiOn now. For my still camera I have a separate charger because there is no charger built into the camera so is required, I can put the spare battery in the charger (device) to transport it and be legal, if they allow that much. With my video camera, however, I saved a few bucks and I'm using the OEM power adapter to charge the battery on the camera. I haven't bought a separate charger for it's batteries - yet.

And, of course, the computer battery is removable but pretty much "built in", but it's fairly large.

We have a hybrid Prius that uses LiOn batteries and it's a 2003 model (love that 45 to 50 mpg even in an old one) and while there have apparently been a few problems they haven't been enough to cause a re-think about the battery packs. And these cars have a LOT of batteries in the battery pack.

Don't know about the newer units, but at least until a few years ago the ELT (Emergency Locator Transponders) used on aircraft used NiCad batteries and they have a very long life expectancy. I used to salvage the "old" batteries from the battery pack when the mandatory time came to replace them for use in my flashlights and other things. They were really good batteries but then made to specifications.

If I were a commercial pilot or worked in the air for a living I'd be concerned about the materials that are carried onboard. Heck, it's bad enough with just passenger problems. With muslim extremists trying to wage their war it's just a matter of time before another "incident" occurs where an aircraft is brought down. Just the recent near-miss where explosives were shipped on a Fed-Ex flight from Yemen shows how close the next disaster is. It was really, really lucky that an informant provided a heads-up otherwise there would surely have been another disaster.

I'm all for good pre-boarding safety checks, and if more regulations are put on LiOn batteries or other items, so be it, but I sure wish the Governments would go after the extremists and the countries that harbor them instead of turning the thumb-screws down on us. Indirectly, we're all feeling the pain.
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Old October 31st, 2010, 01:32 PM   #9
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I have to admit, when I heard the news about the Yemeni bomb rigs, I wondered if there was a connection with the earlier cargo plane fire in the MidEast.
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Old November 23rd, 2010, 01:58 AM   #10
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Somewhere I read that the term "installed in the device" referred to a battery that was permanently installed, not a removable battery that was mounted in or on a device. In other words, just mounting a battery on the camera or charger doesn't make it an "installed battery".

I might be wrong though - my wife says I'm wrong about everything else so why should this be an exception:-)
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Old November 23rd, 2010, 10:58 PM   #11
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Sorry for the "sort of" double post - not sure how it happened

Somewhere I read that the term "installed in the device" referred to a battery that was inside the device (like a DSLR battery that you have to open a door to get at), not a removable battery that was mounted the outside of a device. In other words, just mounting a battery on the back of the camera or charger doesn't make it an "installed battery".

I might be wrong though - my wife says I'm wrong about everything else so why should this be an exception:-)

I think there's plenty of confusion about batteries. I checked the Anton Bauer website and they said the Dionic 160 couldn't be transported by air - but the TSA (or DOT???) web site showed a picture of an AB battery with 160 WH as an example of what you were limited to 2 or 3 in your carry on.
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