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Lithium Batteries—Confused?

By Ian Brown, Editor, Bits and Pieces, EAA# 657159

February 2016 - A recent FAA announcement suggested that the hoverboards we mentioned in a previous article should not be allowed on aircraft because there have been incidents where they have spontaneously burst into flames.

Apparently the FAA has not issued an outright ban but suggested that it is up to the airlines to make their own decision, according to this document.

Even more confusing is that these batteries don’t just spontaneously ignite. It’s the possibility of a short circuit that seems to be causing the problems, although you have to ask how a palletized shipment of lithium batteries could have caught fire, even if dropped, as they apparently were.

As you will read elsewhere in this newsletter, lithium batteries are being used more and more in aviation. See our article on the lithium batteries in the ACK emergency locator transmitter (ELT) upgrade and the news about the Sonex company, which recently announced a line of lithium ion rechargeable aircraft batteries.

The hoverboard spontaneous combustion issue starts to explain itself when you read some of the rules about carrying spare lithium batteries on commercial aircraft. You’re told to avoid contact of the terminals with any metal. Short circuits seem largely to blame for the fires. Apparently hoverboards have wheel seals to keep moisture out. If those seals wear, you can get moisture inside the battery compartment. You might expect people to avoid getting hoverboards wet but a quick Internet search brought up someone shovelling snow while using a hoverboard.


Yukon Midnight Sun Challenge

In other news, your editor signed up for the Century Flight Club trip to Whitehorse this summer. It should be an exciting and educational trip with my good friend and frequent contributor to this newsletter, J. Davis. You can expect one or more articles covering this trip, and I hear there is still space if any of you want to join us.

Momentum for the annual pilgrimage to Oshkosh is building, and many of us are already looking forward to meeting our friends at our favourite camping spot. Maybe it’s a good time to start planning our schedules to fit in those “not to be missed” events that we didn’t quite make in the past. Before we head to Oshkosh, many of us have other adventures in store, like the Whitehorse trip, or flying Young Eagles, or maybe starting up a new Canadian EAA chapter. What will you be doing? Hopefully it will be something new, exciting, and, most of all, safe.

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