Bugs on a windshield - the lithium fire threat in aviation


Kent Faith

September 23, 2015


I spent a couple of days last week driving to and participating in an NBAA Regional Forum in St. Louis. A great experience around a lot of cool ole’ aviation professionals. My wife Lisa and I then drove home to Tulsa late on the third day. When I got going the next morning I was amazed at the car’s windshield and had a hard time seeing the road for the bugs.

Amazingly that brought home to me how safety progresses in aviation. Are we not able to see and recognize new safety technology? Much of aviation has literally been the same since WWII and in some instances since the first flight by the Wright Brothers. Normally aspirated engines with some improvements are still the stable of general aviation. With few exceptions (NextGen and SMS) we are still looking through our aviation safety windshield and can’t see the future for the bugs.

Is aviation safety as good as it gets?

Every day the threat to safety in aviation is broadened by new and improved gadgets that while making our lives and aviation much more stress-free they increase the danger of a catastrophic loss.

Electronic Flight Bags, iPads, Smart phones and Laptop computers now pose some of the greatest risks to aviation with the disaster we call “thermal runway”. So with so much at risk, why have we limited our response in commercial aviation to a protocol using a fire extinguishing agent (Halon) that won’t work on this Lithium-ion fire followed by a “non-alcoholic” liquid[1]. That liquid by the way in a passenger cabin is more times than not a passenger beverage[2].

A lot of things need to change, we certainly need newer and safer ways to carry these batteries in our airplanes and maybe even find better technology of manufacturing. We also need safe extinguishing agents to suppress these fires while airborne.

We have that new safe extinguishing capability. Now we are looking for peers who recognize that their windshield is need of cleaning to take advantage of this new safety technology.

Kent Faith, is a co-founder of SpectrumFX and an internationally rated airline pilot. His company has a new age biodegradable fire extinguishing agent that has been approved by the EPA and meets all new regulatory requirements of the U.S. Government including the Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP). His agent Firebane® is non-toxic and in multiple applications is rated a Class A, B and D extinguishing agent.

[1] FAA SAFO 09013

[2] FAA AC 120-80A