Dangerous Goods in General Aviation

John FRANKLIN • 18 August 2020
in community General Aviation
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This article is intended to give you more information about dangerous goods in General Aviation so that you know what you can take onboard the aircraft safely and also what you really shouldn’t take if you want to live a long and happy life. It will also give you some tips on what to do if there is a fire or other problem with dangerous goods on the aircraft. 

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What are dangerous goods? 

Dangerous goods have a long, complicated official definition.  At a basic level they are things that go bang, things might set on fire and generally things that might cause a difficult situation in the confined space of a small aircraft.

By way of example, on 25 August 2010 someone took a crocodile onboard a Let410 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the final approach the crocodile escaped and the aircraft tragically crashed when the passengers rushed towards the cockpit to escape the situation.  While we are not talking about wild animals here, there are many things that could lead to a problem inside the aircraft if brought on board. 

Some examples to be aware of are listed below – if you need to carry dangerous goods as part of your flight or specialist operations speak to the dangerous good experts at your national aviation authority.

Lithium batteries 

Consumer devices like phones, tablets and computers are fine provided they are bought from reputable shops and have CE or other markings. The problem comes with things that are easy to buy from non-reputable (online) stores like Power Banks, spare batteries and especially Electronic Cigarettes. There have been a number of events across the global aviation community that have been caused by lithium batteries going into thermal runaway.  The resulting effects of thermal runaway include overpressure, corrosive leakage, toxic vapors, overheating and in the most serious cases a fire.

  • Only carry spare Lithium Batteries including Power Banks where people within the aircraft can access them. Only carry Electronic cigarettes with you, switched-off. It is strongly recommended to also carry other items powered by Lithium batteries, like phones, tablets and computers, where people within the aircraft can access them.
  • Avoid crushing (fall, crush, impact, compressing, hitting…) of devices, be especially careful when moving seats and other equipment that may trap or damage any devices.
  • Minimise exposure to sunlight and high temperatures for long periods. Avoid overheating such devices.
  • Do not use Power Banks in flight. Also, never use or charge Electronic Cigarettes at any time during the flight.  Take particular care to not use devices that have been damaged (overheated, fall, shocked, broken, cracked…).
  • Only use devices and Lithium batteries from known, legitimate manufacturers with CE markings or equivalent approvals, this includes the use of original branded cables and chargers.

Other Types of Dangerous Goods – Explosives, Flammable Liquids and other things that hurt 

There are lots of other types of dangerous goods that are dangerous enough on the ground. They are even less of a good idea on an aircraft. Things like explosives (distress flares, ammunition and fireworks), flammable objects (fuels, paints, adhesives and hexamine lighters) and corrosives (acids, cleaning products) are just some examples. 

  • If you think it has the potential to go bang, explode or hurt you – please leave it at home!

​​​​​​What if an event occurs? 

Think about what you might do if you are flying and an event occurs (leakage, fire, …) occurs.  Don’t leave it to chance, consider these four final points.

  • Brief passengers on what they should not bring onto the aircraft and on what they could be requested to do with the corresponding conditions. Remind it is also applicable to you.
  • Brief passengers on what they should do in case of event (stay calm, report to you).
  • Be prepared and know what to do in case of event, check the right condition of your safety device (extinguisher, lithium safe confinement bag, etc …).
  • In case of fire, apply the procedure.
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