Public media and press actually report a growing number of incidents with batteries onboard aircraft in cargo and cabin area. According to the FAA, 152 incidents with batteries since 1991 have evolvedi . Serious safety hazards caused by batteries as part of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) in cockpit, cabin and cargo areas, lead to high awareness throughout the aviation industry.
The rising use of especially Li‐Ion batteries in PEDs increases the likelihood of incidents: the Li‐Ion technology allows storing lots of energy in very small space, leading to a very high energy density and making also small PEDs very powerful. However, and this is in particular a disadvantage of these battery types, they bear the risk to catch fire (known as “thermal runaway”), caused either by mechanical defects, wrong charging or simply heat.
Fires on board aircraft are always critical. A defective battery in the cargo area is not accessible during flight, which makes detecting and fighting very challenging. In contrast, the handling of a battery incident in the cabin is easier, as the defective battery can be located and identified by the crew. Innovint Aircraft Interior GmbH, based in Hamburg, Germany, has developed the PED Containment Bag (CB) to support airlines and crew members in handling those incidents. The CB is designed to protect the crew and passengers from injuries, as well as the cabin environment from damages by containing defective PEDs and batteries.
With the very high temperature resistance of 1.000 degrees Celsius (1.273 kelvin), the CB enables the crew to bring the defective PED safely to a fireproof place in the cabin, where the defective unit can burn out or be cooled down under the surveillance of the crew. The fluid soaking property of the CB allows to cool down the defective battery by immersing the whole bag into water or other non‐flammable liquids, which is likely to prevent battery cells from catching fire. Safety on board aircraft is highly increased.
Innovint has conducted several tests to demonstrate the efficiency of the CB. A first test with fire caught Li‐Ion batteries revealed that temperatures of up to 700 degrees Celsius (973 kelvin) can culminate. In a subsequent test, a 6Ah battery, brought to thermal runaway by overloading, was placed in the CB. Measurements have shown that the fire in the CB reached a maximum of 480 degrees Celsius (753 kelvin). Due to the bag’s insulating effect, the temperature on the outer side was reduced to 80 degrees Celsius (353 kelvin). No flames were present outside the bag, only smoke released. The PED Containment Bag passed the test without any damage. Only black soot indicated the stress the CB was exposed to.
As a result, the bag can be handled even with defective PED inside when precautionarily using fire‐protection gloves, also provided by Innovint. In combination with crew smoke hoods, the defective PED can then be placed away from passengers and cabin‐sensitive components without loss of control for the crew.
On April 7th, 2015, EASA has issued a Service Information Bulletin (SIB) focusing on the dangers caused by Li‐Ion batteries on‐board aircrafts. The SIB recommends to follow procedures published in ICAO Doc. 9481‐AN/928. The Innovint PED Containment Bag contributes to the further development of these procedures with the aim to achieve the highest possible level of safety for airlines.