Shipment of lithium batteries brings down UPS Boeing 747

Guitar Guy

Enlightened
Joined
Oct 23, 2016
Messages
590
Location
West Virginia
I watched another episode of Air Disasters a couple of nights ago. "Fatal Delivery" - season 9 episode 5, from 2016, about a fatal crash of a UPS Boeing 747 in Dubai caused by a shipment of 81000 pounds of Lithium batteries that caught on fire. It was pretty interesting. They didn't specify if they were Li-ion or Lithium primaries, and didn't determine what started the fire. My guess is just being banged around during loading.

By the time the fire warning went off, it was too late. The fire suppression system wouldn't handle it. The fire burned through the fire resistant liner in the cargo hold and damaged the manual flight controls in the ceiling. The auto pilot controls were in the bottom of the jet so they were still able to fly for 20 more minutes and almost made it back to the airport to land by instruments.

The cockpit filled with smoke to the point where they could barely see out the windscreens or see the instruments, auto pilot settings, etc. The Captain's oxygen mask worked for a while, but that system was damaged too, and he passed out. The co-pilot almost made the landing. Air controllers guided him back but when they told him to make a heading of 095 to the runway, he accidentally punched in 195, which steered the plane right instead of left.

The fire kept spreading through the cargo hold from front to back, and it started in the worst location, damaging the flight controls. The co-pilot was dealing with excessive heat and smoke in the cockpit, and was out of time. He did manage to avoid a residential area before going down, and crashed it near a military base, killing both pilots.

Solutions they were working on as of 2016 were actual individual containers for batteries which would contain a 1200 degree battery fire for 4 hours, rather than skids full of batteries lining the cargo hold which could easily spread. Also, implementing better oxygen masks which could be put on with one hand in 3 seconds, and a type of plastic bubble which would shield the pilots from severe smoke.

It was an interesting episode. Parts of it are on youtube, and I think the full episode is here. I think it's free, you just have to sign up for an account / password.


This isn't the episode I watched on Smithsonian, but it is an overview of the same incident.



I though maybe you flashaholics and batteryholics would find it interesting.
 

IMA SOL MAN

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
May 18, 2023
Messages
2,125
Location
The HEART of the USA.
My first reaction...:poop:!

They need to put a bomb bay in those planes, and if the cargo catches on fire, find someplace isolated quick, and bombs away. Containment, in my opinion, is folly. Get it out of the plane ASAP.

200.gif
 

Guitar Guy

Enlightened
Joined
Oct 23, 2016
Messages
590
Location
West Virginia
They need to put a bomb bay in those planes, and if the cargo catches on fire, find someplace isolated quick, and bombs away. Containment, in my opinion, is folly. Get it out of the plane ASAP.
The Green Weenie tree huggers would never go for that. They'd rather sacrifice the crew of the plane, rather than take a chance on killing a tree, coyote, earthworm, or a fish, and putting toxic smoke into the air. Ya know, that could warm the planet by a few more degrees!

I'd rather wear a parachute and do a DB Cooper when it catches fire, but that poses a problem, because he went out the back door, so you'd have to work your way past the fire or take a chance on getting processed through a 747 engine.

Actually, I think the containment bins will work.
 
Last edited:

ItnStln

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Sep 7, 2018
Messages
79
They didn't specify if they were Li-ion or Lithium primaries, and didn't determine what started the fire.
Somewhere I heard it was cell phones, so lithium ion. That makes sense given the HKG-DXB-CGN flight. Working in the industry I've learned the difference between lithium ion and lithium metal/primary batteries. The former can be put out with a halon extinguisher and burn at under 1000°F, whereas the latter cannot be put out with a halon extinguisher and burns at over 3600°F.
Solutions they were working on as of 2016 were actual individual containers for batteries which would contain a 1200 degree battery fire for 4 hours, rather than skids full of batteries lining the cargo hold which could easily spread.
Some airlines use purpose built ULDS for Dangerous Goods whereas others use pallets. The containment containers are cool because they connect to the halon system and crewmembers don't have to enter the cargo hold whereas with the pallets they have to enter the cargo hold with an extinguisher.
Boeing is working on a system that will pierce hardsided ULDS to extinguish fires on the Boeing 777XF.
It was an interesting episode.
It's one of the best I've seen!
 

ItnStln

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Sep 7, 2018
Messages
79
Actually, I think the containment bins will work.
My previous airline used them. They were much heavier than standard ULDS but they connect to the halon system and crewmembers don't have to enter the cargo hold whereas with the pallets they have to enter the cargo hold with an extinguisher.
 

Guitar Guy

Enlightened
Joined
Oct 23, 2016
Messages
590
Location
West Virginia
They need to put a bomb bay in those planes, and if the cargo catches on fire, find someplace isolated quick, and bombs away. Containment, in my opinion, is folly.
I like the bomb bay solution.

The whole bottom of the plane would have to open up. Those 747 cargo planes have all of the seats removed. The diagram they showed on the program showed pallets of batteries lined up from right behind the cockpit all the way to the back of the plane. They stuff them full for cost effectiveness.

You couldn't have a way to just cut that many loose. Too much chance of hitting something anyway, even over the ocean. Could you imagine being on a cruise ship and having a skid full of burning batteries hit the boat from 25000 feet? ouch ... oops
 

bykfixer

Flashaholic
Joined
Aug 9, 2015
Messages
20,416
Location
Dust in the Wind
I always thought lithium batteries crossed the ocean on a ship.

When I ordered lights from PK the ones with batteries came over here on a ship. Sometimes they'd arrive before those without batteries that came over here on an airplane.
 

Buff

Enlightened
Joined
Dec 21, 2023
Messages
382
Location
North Carolina Mountains
Well then a better idea is to repurpose actual bombers to haul batteries. Plenty in the bone yard in mothball waiting for a entrepreneur with some investors. Sam Beckman Fried comes to mind. Excuse my spellen
 

Latest posts

Top