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Lithium-Ion Battery Explodes On Delta Aircraft

March 13, 2018
3 min read
Lithium-Ion Battery Explodes On Delta Aircraft
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Lithium batteries continue to cause serious issues in the aviation industry with another incident occurring yesterday aboard a Delta flight.

A lithium-ion battery exploded on SkyWest flight 4449 operating as Delta Connection. Skywest 4449 was getting loaded up with cargo when crew members smelled smoke in the cargo hold. Delta ground crew searched the aircraft's hold, unloaded bags and found a smoking battery that had exploded.

A flight attendant came aboard before takeoff and showed passengers the item that had exploded. Pictures show a blackened plastic bag that had melted and burned together with a t-shirt.

Flight 4449 was flying from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Bozeman, Montana (BZN).

“We are proud of the quick work of our ground crew who recognized and helped extinguish a bag containing a lithium-ion battery that began overheating inside the cargo hold during the loading process of SkyWest flight 4449 operating as Delta Connection from Salt Lake City to Bozeman, Mont.,” a spokesman for the airline told MarketWatch.

“The situation underscores the importance of removing lithium-ion batteries from checked or gate-checked luggage,” the spokesman said.

Although the FAA doesn't require airlines to, most carriers have banned lithium-ion batteries from checked luggage. Some also require that batteries be removed from "smart" carry-on luggage. Delta itself tightened restrictions when it announced customers were required to remove their lithium batteries from smart luggage in all instances, whether carried on, checked regularly or checked at the gate.

The FAA recommends that passengers keep “spare/uninstalled batteries” with them in the aircraft cabin and that “devices containing lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be carried in carry-on baggage when possible.”

Almost all rechargeable batteries are lithium-ion these days — so if you plug-in a gadget to charge, it almost certainly uses a lithium-ion battery. Anything with a rechargeable battery should be brought onboard as a carry-on and not stored in checked baggage.

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Fortunately, the Embraer 175 landed safely in Bozeman at 1:07 MDT.

An FAA safety alert from 2016 issued to foreign and domestic carriers warned that "current cargo fire suppression systems cannot effectively control a lithium battery fire."

The last few years have seen a string of incidents with batteries exploding in aircraft or near airports — including recently in a TSA checkpoint line and China Southern flight.