Lithium Batteries: A Hot Topic
Learn about the risks, the data and how the FAA helps prevent lithium battery incidents on aircraft.
Lithium batteries are in products we use every day — from laptops and hand-held devices, such as vapes and cell phones, to battery-powered tools and electric vehicles. However, they can be dangerous on aircraft if not packed or shipped properly.
Look at the Data
From January 23, 2006, until July 22, there were 398 reported aviation-related incidents involving lithium batteries that were carried as cargo or in passenger baggage.
There were 42 reported incidents involving vapes or e-cigarettes on aircraft since 2020 with the majority of those being on passenger aircraft. And for the 41 lithium battery incidents reported through July of this year, e-cigarettes/vapes were in the lead for category of incident. Incidents involving battery packs or spare batteries seemed to surge in 2017.
Understand the Risk
Why should spare batteries and lithium battery-powered devices be kept with you in the cabin? If the battery does begin to smoke or catch fire, the trained crew can be alerted and respond quickly. Passengers can learn how to safely pack bags to reduce the risk from these and other common dangerous goods with the resources at the bottom of this page or the FAA’s PackSafe chart.
Damaged or recalled batteries and battery-powered devices, which are likely to create sparks or generate a dangerous evolution of heat, must not be carried aboard an aircraft (e.g. carry-on or checked baggage) unless the damaged or recalled battery has been removed or otherwise made safe. The airline may offer further public guidance on transporting individual recalled products.
Helping Prevent Incidents
The FAA takes several approaches to reduce the risk of aviation incidents including testing, regulation changes, international collaboration on standards, training and outreach. Information sources such as the Lithium Battery Incident reports help to inform these efforts. Here are a few things the FAA is doing to help prevent or respond to aircraft incidents involving lithium batteries:
- The FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center includes a vast array of state-of-the-art laboratories to enable research, engineering, development, test, and evaluation of advanced aviation technologies and to ensure that risks introduced to the aircraft can be mitigated. The Fire Safety Branch’s research focus areas include cargo, propulsion and fuel systems, cabin interior fire protection, and advanced fire-resistant materials. Lithium batteries are included in this research, watch some of our testing videos.
Collaboration on standards
- The FAA provides updates and input on national and international regulations and recommendations for airline operators on hazardous materials safety.
- The FAA works regularly with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, our sister agency under the Department of Transportation, to coordinate standards across various methods of transportation.
Education for passengers, shippers and airline crew
- The FAA works regularly with Consumer Product Safety Commission to communicate to passengers and airlines about recalled devices and how to handle them.
- The FAA provides training and resources for air carriers on how to respond to lithium battery incidents in the cabin and flight deck.
- The FAA provides safety information via social media and on our PackSafe website for passengers, SafeCargo website for shippers and e-commerce, and OperateSafe website for aircraft operators.
Here are some additional links to resources for packing and shipping batteries or battery-powered devices:
- Vapes On A Plane Marketing Kit
- Airline Passengers and Batteries (PDF)
- Teams and Groups Packing Checklist (PDF)
- Audio Visual Equipment Packing Checklist (PDF)
- PHMSA Battery Guide for Shippers (PDF)
- Use our Interactive Battery Guide (PDF) to determine how to properly ship your batteries
- YouTube playlist: Safe Shipping by Air
- YouTube playlist: PackSafe for Passengers