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News & Insight

Do Not Put Your Lithium ION Batteries In Checked Luggage | New FAA Warning

By Kishore Sawh on October 16th 2015


I’ve often lamented the fact that the European Union, as a sort of federal superstate, spent so much time fussing over a single currency and other such trifles, when what they should’ve been doing is giving us something that actually would be useful – like a single wall plug socket. Fair enough it wasn’t much of an issue when we used to travel with naught but a wallet and comb, but in today’s day of electronic dependency we are carrying around mobile phones, iPads, pocket cameras, DSLR cameras, computers and more, and carrying around adapters for them all requires a whole checked bag unto itself.

Well, scratch that, I certainly don’t mean ‘checked’ bag, and for many reasons. For one, if you’re foolish enough to pack those kinds of electronics in a suitcase, even with your first class ticket, thinking the boys in blue and brown on the tarmac will handle your luggage as if it were their first born, simply put, you’re mad. Secondly, and now more importantly is that the fuel of choice for most modern electronics from DSLRs to defibrillators, is the Lithium ION battery, and as fateful cock-up would have it, it turns out they can be quite a hazard while flying.


Such a hazard, in fact, that the FAA has issued a new warning on the dangers such batteries could pose to aircraft, and the could on board, essentially calling for their ban.

Lithium batteries present a risk of both igniting and fueling fires in aircraft cargo/baggage compartments. To reduce the risk of lithium battery fires, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), and equivalent International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods (ICAO TI), prohibit spare lithium batteries from checked baggage (including baggage checked at the gate or onboard the aircraft).


In a nutshell, events over the past years and recent research shows that these batteries pose a significant risk of igniting and fueling fires, and in an aircraft with a cabin full of pumped in oxygen, this isn’t good.

It is interesting, however, that it was years ago that the FAA and IATA (The International Air Transport Association) agreed that the cargo holds of civilian aircraft can reach temperatures, and be conducive to igniting these batteries into fire. So why is the really warning coming now and not then? And why is the warning really pertaining to passenger aircraft, when there have been pilots calling for their ban for years and for the cargo aircraft also?



Well, no doubt you’re aware of the hideous aviation disasters that have happened in the past year or so, with Malaysian Airlines and Boeing being in the forefront of it, such as the disappearance of flight MH370. What made this even a more curious case was that it occurred in what is probably the safest dual engine aircraft flying today, the Boeing 777. In fact, and I’m an aviation guy, it’s the only aircraft I care to fly long distances on over water, given the chance. Anyway, there’s been more speculation now that flight MH370 could’ve been downed by a fire caused by batteries.

The simple fix to this is, and one you should abide by is just keep your batteries with you on your next flight, for your sake and everyone else’s. Period.

You can see the official warning here.


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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Branko Sreckovic

    “where is the proof for this knee jerk reaction? exactly over all the years of aviation how many crashes did batteries cause?”

    Over all these years regarding crashes we don’t have evidence YET. So over all these years no crashes caused by giant Li Ion batteries YET.
    BUT we do have evidence and stories released via respected TV services of one or two SERIOUS incident on the ground.
    At the end of the day why they (airline companies) issued above mention ban?

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  2. norman tesch

    where is the proof for this knee jerk reaction? exactly over all the years of aviation how many crashes did batteries cause?

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Well, the FAA and IATA, typically, aren’t prone to major knee-jerk reactions, but given the stakes, and for little trouble to the passengers and crew, erring on the side of caution could never be a bad thing.

      It’s also worth noting that the initiative was a) originally an unsolicited but formal recommendation by Boeing (no need to reiterate the fact Boeing uses them in their aircraft) b) sort of echoing concerns by many pilot unions.

      Of course it began, im assuming, because of the ill fated UPS 747-400 series crash a few years back, transporting the batteries in bulk, and Boeing’s initiative is really been about the bulk transport. However, the FAA and IATA seems to have concern that hundreds of the type of batteries are likely in the cargo hold on any given flight, just from passengers. It isn’t knee jerk really, but precautionary until the whole thing is understood fully.

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  3. Branko Sreckovic

    It’s a deal. Thumbs up! And the same for you if you ever divert to Belgrade.

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  4. Branko Sreckovic

    Well Kishore we certainly won’t be able to change design, production and greed trends in our lifetime but…
    Maybe we will witness ultimate shortage of fuel thus the final downfall of aviation transport and industry?
    Solar or nuclear powered freighters are waiting in our near future.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I think we might get along well. If you’re ever in Miami or London, hit me up for a beer and good convo.
      be well Branko

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  5. Branko Sreckovic

    We talk here about entirely different situations. Triple 7 has 2 massive Lithium Ion batteries. When NG or Discovery presented this plane, they stated that stored power in these 2 batteries can power small city of more than 5000 homes. During exploitation, Li Ion batteries generate significant amount of heat. I don’t know how that crippled design can be ‘safest dual engine’ today regarding long ‘blue water’ flight. In terms of mechanic reliability maybe yes but in electrical terms. Obviously batteries are more light and more easy to operate than generators allowing more passengers on board or more fuel. What a greed huh?
    I cannot imagine that 15 or more notebooks or cameras on board could down the jet.
    Well, greed is obviously capable.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      You make good points here Branko, but there’s no getting around aircraft using more and more batteries I’m afraid, I just can’t see the change, in my lifetime anyway.

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  6. Richard Olender

    “in an aircraft with a cabin full of pumped in oxygen, this isn’t good.”

    Airline cabin pressure is actually pressurized to about 6000-8000 feet above sea level

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I was simply getting at the fact at typical cruising altitude there’s less in each breath due to pressure, so ‘generated’ oxygen is required, generally creating a situation where the aircraft has more concentrated oxygen than its surroundings.

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