A seemingly harmless powerbank overheated and caught fire on a flight from Taiwan to Singapore last week.
The powerbank or portable charger in question burst into flames on a Scoot flight prior to take-off from the Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan to Singapore which ended up injuring two passengers (the owner and partner).
Luckily for the two individuals, the injuries were minor after being attended to by the airport’s medical team as well as the fire being put out and handled by firefighters.
The flight was able to continue its journey with just a short delay but when we really think about it, the situation could have been much worse if the faulty powerbank ‘exploded’ while the plane was in the air. Following the incident, the next question is obviously revolving around the safety of carrying such portable charging devices while flying.
What are the rules of powerbanks in carry-ons?
Most airlines around the world have their own rules and regulations when it comes to carrying lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries on board their flights. Using Malaysia Airlines as an example, their rules state that each passenger is limited to two portable chargers that don’t exceed 160 watt-hours or around 43,243mAh.
In order words, a couple of 20,000mAh powerbanks is the limit and for some, the limit is even lower. For this particular writer, a 10,000mAh has always been the go-to powerbank that should pass any airline regulations around the globe without a hitch when it comes to bringing one in your carry-on.
How to check if your powerbank is still safe?
While it is hard to determine the physical state of powerbanks or portable chargers, users should be aware of the telltale signs of the devices operating outside of the norm. Things like temperature and physical defects or degradation should be monitored constantly because when lithium-ion catches fire, it’s very hard to put out.
There are a few things that can be done to ensure the functionality and safety of all powerbank devices. Some of them are:
If it’s too hot to hold with your bare hands comfortably, it might be time to replace it (some heat is normal, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable)
Any signs of physical defects like bulges, ‘bloating’, or even punctures, it’s definitely time to get rid of it ASAP
Always get the known brands and not the knock-offs
Practise healthy charging habits like using the powerbanks in well-ventilated spaces to avoid overheating, not overcharging, storing in cool places, etc.
Maintain a decent battery charge (letting it drain to almost nothing will allow more current to pass through the device, hence creating more heat)
Use recommended accessories to charge your powerbanks (third-party chargers and cables might lead to the generation of excessive heat while in use)
Should powerbanks be banned on flights?
Going back to the question of whether powerbanks or portable charging devices should be banned from flights, this move might lead to other devices powered by lithium-ion batteries being banned as well.
It’ll be a difficult day if the flights you’re about to board start to confiscate your laptops, cameras, phones, action cams, vapes, and more since they’re all powered using lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries.
As long as you’re aware of the physical state of your portable chargers and maintain good etiquette when it comes to owning one, there’s a good chance that it won’t blow up on your face in the future. Stay safe!