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Power banks – safety, capacity, confiscation
Love your blog – always excellent.
I have an upcoming economy Swiss 11hr flight to ZRH-HKG, and realised from seatguru there’s only USB sockets, and no AC power on the B77W aircraft. I need to work with laptop. My existing power bank is too small, so about to buy a bigger one.
I have read about the 100Wh, 27,000mAh maximum limit. I have seen security previously check my small powerbank and let me on board.
My questions are:
1. Do you have any idea how universal the 100Wh/27,000mAh limit is for airports? (I recently flew LHR-SIN-SYD and had a pocket knife in hand-luggage with much sentimental value approved from LHR, and then confiscated at SIN.)
2. I have read and seen videos of the powerbank fires, particularly on China Southern. They terrify me. What do cabin staff do in the event of one of these fires? As a frequent flyer, I would like to be informed of procedure, so (heaven forbid it happens) I would know how to assist, etc.
thanks as ever
When samsung phones were spontaneously combusting I remember reading about planes having a sort of flame proof bag that they could use to encapsulate something on fire and cut off O2 supply. Probably similar to what they would do with a powerbank. I haven’t heard about the capacity limit though. will have to take a look at that.
The main issue with power banks is that fire extinguishers are not affective with them. They will eliminate the fire, but they do not cool the device. With lithium ion batteries, thermal runaway is very dangerous, as the heat is transferred from cell to cell, causing multiple explosions if not cooled. At my airline, the procedure is first to douse the device with non-flammable liquid, and monitor it for re-ignition. When the first flight attendant is doing this, another attendant would grab the lavatory trash receptacle, fill it with non-flammable liquid, and bring it to the first FA. The first FA will then carefully move the device into the receptacle and have it fully submerged. They will then bring the recepticle, and store it back in the lavatory, as there’s a fire extinguisher monitoring that bin for heat, so if it reignites, it would spray halon to control the fire.
I hope that answers your question.
But as a passenger, the best way for you to assist, is to stay out of the way and to protect yourself. Our uniforms are flame retardant, your clothes are not.
Edit: Here’s a very informational video released by the FAA.