OmahaAudio

Lithium-ion batteries banned as cargo on passenger flights

29 posts in this topic

"The International Civil Aviation Organization’s 36-state governing council said the prohibition would be in effect as of 1 April and remain in force until a new fire-resistant packaging standard was designed to transport the batteries."

I'm not sure that's a big deal. I think they need to refine the rule so that you could at least transport uncharged LiOn batteries and make sure the terminals are covered with tape or plastic caps. 

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As far as I know, Lithium Ion batteries, such as NP-L7s are already not allowed as cargo. They are however allowed as carry-on.

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I was going through Heathrow recently with an ENG camera and 5 v-lock batteries. I had obeyed British Airways regulations to the very letter - I had one battery attached to the camera, four spare batteries with electrical tape over the contacts, all as carry-on. Airport Security lady flat out refused to let me take the batteries as carry-on, and told me that I must return to check them all in as baggage (!). She told me that according to Heathrow regulations (??) I was allowed to carry-on only two lithium ion batteries per person, and they must be in their original manufacturer packaging (!!) but she said I was allowed to check in as many lithium ion batteries as I liked, with no regulations (!?!?).

In the end I just did what she said and went back to check in 5 x v lock batteries inside a flimsy unpadded backpack into the baggage hold, rather than risk being refused onto the flight / thrown in jail. The more I think about it, the more disgusted I am - I should definitely have insisted on speaking to her supervisor or something. At the time I just felt too intimidated to argue with, ya know, airport freaking security.

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Yah. I have some flights coming up so I'm trying to figure out what's up. I usually rely on the IDX Tech Li-Ion Transportation page for info on what I can and can't carry online. Good summary for their batteries (and easily applicable to other brand batteries), includes the IATA battery transport document, etc. Unfortunately, the page currently says "As of January 2015," and IIOC the new regulations start on April 1. Here's the (heading out of date) link:

http://idxtek.com/lithium-ion-transportation/

And here's a summary graphic that was (and I think for five weeks still is) handy: 

iata-transportation.jpg

 

But as Jim C links, things are about to change and it's not totally clear to me how they are about to change.

So I asked on the IDX Tek Facebook page if they could clarify the pending changes. Whomever at IDX maintains that page said something like "here's the info" and linked to the old Jan 2015 page. And now it looks like that response (and my post) was deleted. So I think at least some people at IDX aren't yet quite sure what's up. I sent a note to IDX Tek; let's see if they respond.

In the meantime, here's the IATA page that includes links to info on the pending changes:

http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/dgr/Pages/lithium-batteries.aspx 

I don't clearly understand how those apply to us. And I presume here in the US we'll continue to face TSA folks also don't understand. Has anyone heard anything authoritative?

I know Zak from @IDX TEK has occasionally posted here. Zak, are you here? Can you enlighten us?

 

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Our crew had a problem with V-Locks last year in Rwanda of all places.  We took 10+ of them into Rwanda no problem, but when we were taking a KLM flight from Kigali --> Amsterdam, the CAPTAIN of the plane refused to fly with our batteries (even though there were 10 of us on the crew so we were below the 2 per person rule).  After some back and forth arguing (they were all in pelican cases carried on), they agreed to let us take them if we individually wrapped them all in newspaper?  and put each battery into a separate carry on overhead bin.  By the end of the flight, it looked like we were going down the plane collecting little bricks of cocaine or something to which funny enough, Amsterdam's customs didn't even look at twice come to think of it...

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In the article I read, I got the sense that this change wouldnt apply to us. We're already carrying our kit batteries rather than checking them (with all the resultant TSA nonsense that comes from trying to keep the entire country on the same chapter (let alone the same page)).

I read it as forbidding the shipping of Li-Ion batteries as cargo on passenger planes. You know, the way the camera department ships their batteries from one city to the next when we're on the road with them...lol.

best,

steven

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I heard of a guy who will ship his batteries by ship to the Olympics in Brazil together with some other equipment stuff to avoid any circumstances.

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On February 24, 2016 at 3:14 AM, Jamie Tongue said:

I was going through Heathrow recently with an ENG camera and 5 v-lock batteries. I had obeyed British Airways regulations to the very letter - I had one battery attached to the camera, four spare batteries with electrical tape over the contacts, all as carry-on. Airport Security lady flat out refused to let me take the batteries as carry-on, and told me that I must return to check them all in as baggage (!). She told me that according to Heathrow regulations (??) I was allowed to carry-on only two lithium ion batteries per person, and they must be in their original manufacturer packaging (!!) but she said I was allowed to check in as many lithium ion batteries as I liked, with no regulations (!?!?).

In the end I just did what she said and went back to check in 5 x v lock batteries inside a flimsy unpadded backpack into the baggage hold, rather than risk being refused onto the flight / thrown in jail. The more I think about it, the more disgusted I am - I should definitely have insisted on speaking to her supervisor or something. At the time I just felt too intimidated to argue with, ya know, airport freaking security.

here is a link to a story about a pilot who saw smoke,  just before taking off:

https://www.cinema5d.com/drone-batteries-causing-plane-fire-australia-declare/

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Group member Al McGuire posted this to the JWS Facebook page, Mark Walpole is a close friend and lives in the Washington DC area. Mark was threatened with a $75,000 fine by the FAA (not the TSA) because they decided to start enforcing a long-standing regulation. Read about his experience and learn:

Here is what I put on CML last month about it.......The rule is you cannot check any Lithium Ion batteries into the belly of the plane.

Chances are its my horror story you have heard. In October I was flying BWI to DFW. I had (6) Anton Bauer HCX batteries in a Pelican that I checked. When I got to Texas my battery case was empty. In the 2 years leading up to this event I estimate I had checked that battery case 300 times with those batteries in it with no issue. As it turns out… I have always been in the wrong and didn’t know it, its just the enforcement is amping up now. In Baltimore when my checked bags were X-Rayed it was reported to the FAA I was attempting to put Lithium Ion batteries in the checked baggage compartment of the plane. The FAA seized my batteries, locked them away, photographed them for evidence, and opened a full investigation where I was facing a $75,000 fine. Very scary. Not to mention I had no batteries to shoot with.

As you can imagine I was super cooperative, extremely nice, very sorry, and thankfully the judgement was No Enforcement… and a promise from the FAA that if I ever had an issue with batteries again, I would be in a world of pain.

During the 40 days the case was under investigation, I learned a lot about the rules, and how a guy who travels with 2 Amiras on airplanes every day can still reliably travel with batteries. I have some FAA white paper on all of this stuff if anyone wants to look at it https://www.dropbox.com/.../AACe8MV1eyP44xggpoqtpBdNa...
it is very hard to read lawyer speak. After millions of questions to the FAA investigators I have come up with this workflow.

Marks Pro Tips for hassle free flying 100% of the time:
-Only Travel with batteries under 100 watt hours
-Carry on all batteries into the passenger compartment
-Tape the battery terminals

This is what I have been doing the last few months and its flawless. I travel with a backpack with (8) Anton Bauer Cine 90’s. The only slow down is when you go through TSA at the airport, 100% of the time they rub the wand with the cloth on the end of it on the backpack full of batteries. Its a 1 minute slow down. The real bummer is schlepping 8 batteries to the airport bar, but it is now the only way to do it. I got this tiny backpack that perfectly fits (8) Anton Bauer Cine 90’s in it https://www.thenorthface.com/.../equipment.../microbyte...
The key for this backpack is if need be, it can fit under the seat if the overheads are full. If you used a small Pelican to carry the batteries it wouldn’t fit under the seat. If your on those small Embraer regionals with tiny overheads, or if the overheads were full you wouldn’t have anywhere to put the Pelican. The FAA rule is if you turn over the batteries to be gate checked you are in violation just the same.

As of today:
-you can hand carry into the cabin as many under 100 watt hour batteries you want, no limit
-each ticked passenger can hand carry (2) under 160 watt hour batteries with explicit airline approval at check in. They have the right to say no arbitrarily when you ask, so it is not a solid plan to ever count on working. But you have to ask permission first.
-You can check a under 160 watt hour battery 1 per case IF it is installed in a piece of equipment (not charger), the case bears the FAA approved Haz Mat labeling on the outside with contact information, and explicit Airline approval upon check in, again the airline has the right to arbitrary deny it so it is not solid plan to count on ever working. If you were going to try this I would also have the UN testing doc for your model battery from the manufacture if you were really going to try this, the FAA regulation references batteries passing this testing. Anton Bauer provided me with theirs for the HDX’s when I asked.
-You must take protective measures (like taping) so the terminals can not come into contact with anything and short out.

The FAA explained to me that the danger of Lithium Ion is if they catch fire they are really nasty, and are susceptible to problems if the cargo hold gets depressurized. If the batteries are in the cabin, and the cabin losses pressure, the plane immediately gets to a lower altitude for the passengers. Also if a battery starts on fire in the cabin it will be quickly noticed and is a lot more emergency manageable than an unattended fire in the cargo hold that may be past the point of suppression once it is detected.

The FAA said that they have had lots of problems (prob why we are seeing the new enforcement) with the Hoverboard scooter things. They have large Li-Ion batteries in them and the batteries are mass produced terrible build quality, and safety. They are designed to be cheap, and you can see in the news they catch fire a lot. Russel Crowe over christmas had trouble trying to bring a Hoverboard thing on a flight http://www.cnn.com/.../russell-crowe-virgin-australia.../

I encouraged the FAA to get a booth at NAB to help everyone navigate this, so there would be someone to talk with about the rules. It sounded like they were going to do it, I sent them all the info. If you are at NAB and the FAA really does get a booth stop by and say hello to them. My issue was the FAA doesn’t have any outreach or a way for people to easily get real world clarification. The published regulations are hard to read, and our situations as filmmakers is unique. I def benefited from being able to converse with a human on my situation.

A few closing notes. Don’t try to skirt the rules. If nothing else, this is the plane you are flying on after all. Don’t count on getting let off if you are caught. The regulations are changing a lot. My contact at the FAA is Special Agent Louis Fernandez, Louis.Fernandez@faa.gov. If you have questions you should contact him, he is the definitive answer. Please note I only travel domestically in the US. I have a friend who just flew a crew to Asia and the airline would not allow them to carry on, or check any batteries when departing from the US. The times are def getting worse for traveling with batteries. Get locally when you can, but unfortunately sweet places to film often times have no rental houses. Happy shooting!

Mark Walpole
Washington DC Based Cinematographer
Local 600

 

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Hey all,

I just thought I'd chime in here (after an extended absence from the forum)... apparently, there are some airlines who won't allow LiIon batteries of any kind - period. I'm running into this with Volaris in Mexico right now. I'm glad I took the time to call ahead - I assumed I could do just as I've done dozens of times in the past - carry on: one connected to equipment, the rest with taped terminals, < 100Wh, in some cases they seem to prefer the batteries are discharged. 

Volaris says no way - regardless.

So now, I'm having to ship the batteries (go figure) by FedEx through their Dangerous Goods Department - either "connected to equipment" or stored with equipment - up to 2 spares. Loose batteries by themselves are a whole other can of worms, so yeah, now I have to ship my gear that I was originally planning on carrying on - just so i can ship the batteries!

There doesn't seem to be any kind of standard or consensus among the airlines, so don't assume so!. 

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Great stuff Jim

I've been through these hoops even talked at length with airport security and their

senior dangerous good inspector

I travel with 97watt batteries in a pink case with appropriate stickers on the outside

Inside the two batteries are encased in a fiberglass fireproof bag

I also carry all the documentation needed to prove the facts

The only problem is if you get a goon on the x ray scanner who just says "No"

mike

IMG_3430.JPG

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I've found that the PAG batteries, which have a UN "safe" sticker affixed to them, cause less problems. This saved me in Nairobi. Also the concept of having a battery attached, thereby allowing it to be checked is not ironclad, with a camera, for instance, in which the battery is clearly not integrated. This has resulted in some heated discussions. My advice is to allow plenty of time at airport, especially in Africa, where they are especially touchy. You may end up in a negotiation and discussion of manufacturing standards. Non of this would be an issue if cheap LI units weren't around and often packaged poorly - the UPS crash at Birmingham, AL blamed on a pallet of Chinese batteries, for computers, I believe. All of this as if air travel wasn't unpleasant enough already for those of us who can't go anywhere without mountains of cases. FYI, Pelican has a new line of Pelican "light" cases which are significantly lighter. The largest conforms exactly to the largest size allowed by most airlines. I have two that survived several rough international journeys - they're expensive, but cheaper than additional cases.

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BTW

The earlier test flight fires on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner were caused by a lithium battery!

mike

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 FedEx and UPS are not allowing shipping of lithium batteries overnight. i.e. in an airplane. You have to ground ship them. Pretty soon we will all be going back to nickel metal hydride batteries 

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Wow Stacy and how many film/tv crews are traveling around the US on a daily basis?

Also how many laptops with LiPo batteries?

mike

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I recently had a case where we nearly couldn't get some NiMH on board. The responsible person was digging for an hour in some folders, and then announced "no batteries over 12V are allowed". Asking for a supervisor didn't help as she was the one in charge. After standing helplessly around for an other half an hour, eventually she said if the security check is ok with it we can take it, but "only 1 per person" (we were 6 persons and had 3 batteries total), so we didn't argue with this logic, took care that everybody only carried one battery and hurried on board. 

But this could have been a real problem because we arrived at a weekend and wanted to shoot right away, for future projects I'll try to always rent a battery locally or ship one of ahead of time as a backup.

chris

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11 hours ago, mikewest said:

Wow Stacy and how many film/tv crews are traveling around the US on a daily basis?

Also how many laptops with LiPo batteries?

mike

 Sorry Mike, after I read my post I should've been more descriptive. If you are shipping a pelican case full of lithium camera batteries, FedEx and UPS want you to do it via ground. Discussion about this at Super Bowl amongst the equipment guys at NFL, VER, etc. It may not have been implemented yet.

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On 2017-03-01 at 1:36 AM, mikewest said:

BTW

The earlier test flight fires on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner were caused by a lithium battery!

mike

just for clarification, it was the dreamliner's own lithium battery system,  not something someone else carried on board, or shipped

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Hi ChrisMEDR

Well they got it wrong as the rules are not about the voltage of the battery

100 Wh is one limit for carry on with no restriction of quantities

160 Wh is the next limit with only 2 for carry on but with the approval of the operator

They must have all terminals taped

I use 74 Wh batteries that are 14..4 volts and have carried them domestically

and also through Dubai to Rome

mike

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This issue of freighting and hand carrying Li-ion batts has now reached the very inconvenient stage.

Fedex has a total ban and other freight companies either have or are heading down the same path.

Just tried to import a Meon Life from the US to NZ, impossible except by sea which is not an option.

I then need to get a cart powered by Li-ion to Asia for a job, maybe impossible too with so many different airline policies.

Can Remote Audio modify their Meon Life so that you can take the batts out and hand carry them, they would need to be under 100WH which i am sure they are. This wouldn't help with the freight but could mean that we could use our own batts in a remote case with charger and power distro made for it. Or do they go back to Nimh.

Just thinking here that its time to re evaluate cart power away from Li-ion. I know if one doesn't travel there is not a problem but if we cannot jump on a plane with our gear to go and do a job then we are a bit screwed. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of Sound Mixers having trouble here.

Going back to lead acid is a backward step and a bit hopeless to power the Bag.

I would love to hear from Glen Trew as I am sure he is aware of this problem now and would love to hear if there is a solution for this.

Samsung and the like have given Li-ion a bad rep along with many other dodgy companies cramming batteries into devices that then short and catch fire.

Tony

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8 minutes ago, Tony Johnson said:

Or do they go back to Nimh.

as mentioned above that sometimes doesn't help either since airport staff doesn't know the difference  (plus, it would make the batteries quite a bit larger and heavier).

definitely becoming a tricky issue because often it will all work without problems, but you never know when you run into a dead end.

 

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I have shipped my small (96wH) via commercial airline through a freight company - UK to US. I have 3 in the bag. I attach one to my 664 via cable and have 2 spares taped. Not sure the carry-on rule applies, but why not do it anyway. My ipowers are all in devices too, with one spare each. They are all in one pelican with a clear label. My cart battery is SLA. I have large LiPO in the UK. I don't ship it.

I am about to ship back to the UK. 

Dynamic in the UK and PackAir in LA seem to have shipping movie gear down. They had no issues whatsoever. 

I think the sensible thing is to have battery resources at your location. 

My cart power supply of choice does not hold LiPO, for this very reason. 

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9 minutes ago, chrismedr said:

as mentioned above that sometimes doesn't help either since airport staff doesn't know the difference  (plus, it would make the batteries quite a bit larger and heavier).

definitely becoming a tricky issue because often it will all work without problems, but you never know when you run into a dead end.

Totally agree to both of these points. I want to replace my Meon 2 Nimh to a Life because of the weight.

I am conscious of having a kit that is light and manoeuvrable easy which means Li-ion whether its a bag or cart.

Appealing to Airlines to have a universal policy whilst acknowledging that not all Li-ion batts are dangerous I imagine is a step too far?

 

1 minute ago, RPSharman said:

I have shipped my small (96wH) via commercial airline through a freight company - UK to US. I have 3 in the bag. I attach one to my 664 via cable abs have 2 spares taped. My ipowers are all in devices, with one spare each. They are all in one pelican with a clear label. My cart battery is SLA. I have large LiPO in the UK. I don't ship it.

I am about to ship back to the UK. 

Dynamic in the UK and PackAir in LA seem to have shipping movie gear down. They had no issues whatsoever. 

Thanks Robert I will investigate Packair. I have also had success with shipping equip with the battery plus one spare but with Fedex declaring NO Li-ion anywhere and UPS I believe as well is a concern if it transfers to other Airlines. 

Not sure it will work for Meon Life on its own.

Tony

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I think the Meon LiFe would be 240 watt hours  based on it being 20 amp hours and a 12v output. They don't specify on the website other than this numbers and the maximum amp output. Definitely can't ship that via air. Maybe they can source Life batteries in the different locals so that the battery-less units can be shipped via plane. 

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