The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) wants to raise awareness of the potential risks as passengers buy poor quality batteries online and the number of electronic devices carried on planes rises.
Though there have been no reported incidents of battery-triggered fires on UK aircraft, there were 141 ‘air incidents’ involving batteries carried as aviation cargo or passenger baggage from 20 March 1991-17 February 2014, according to figures released by America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The FAA says air incidents involve smoke, fire, extreme heat or explosion.
A CAA spokesman told AP: ‘We are in the hands of passengers to a large extent… We need to work with passengers and the [airline] industry to ameliorate any risks.’
The CAA urges passengers to carry spare batteries only in carry-on luggage and to pack them in a separate bag ‘isolated from anything else’.
A spokesman added: ‘Incorrectly packaged or counterfeit lithium-ion batteries are a potential fire risk, which is why the CAA has launched an awareness campaign with airports and airlines to help manage that risk.
‘Passengers should only take on board batteries – particularly lithium batteries – that have been purchased from legitimate outlets.
‘Spare batteries can be carried as hand luggage – not checked in hold baggage – but need to be packed correctly in individual plastic bags or containers.
‘Lithium batteries should not be sent by post, even if installed in electronics devices.’
An Air China Airbus was en route from Beijing to Shanghai on 25 May 2011 when cabin crew smelled smoke, later traced to an overhead locker.
They found that a passenger’s camera had ‘caught fire due to thermal runaway of its lithium battery’.
‘The cabin crew were able to contain the fire, cool the batteries down and thus stop the thermal runaway and resulting fire,’ stated an article published by The Aviation Herald at the time.
‘The aircraft continued to Shanghai for a safe landing. No injuries were reported.’
The airline said that the spontaneous fire resulted in 20cm-high flames.
The burning camera was put in a lavatory on the aircraft as other crew members quickly sought fire extinguishers, adds The Aviation Herald report.