Saturday, October 18, 2014

Airline passengers caught with undeclared, banned and dangerous items on planes, Civil Aviation and Safety Authority reveals

Airline passengers are putting the safety of aircraft at risk by bringing on board potentially explosive items such as fireworks, nail polish and fuel-operated chainsaws in their checked-in luggage.

The Sunday Telegraph has obtained a staggering list of banned items found in passenger bags in the year to June, with the national air safety watchdog warning the items likely represented just a fraction of dangerous goods it believes end up in aircraft cargo holds.

The release of the data follows a baggage fire triggered by undeclared batteries in April this year and comes as the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) launches a national campaign to raise awareness of the need to declare potentially dangerous goods.

Explosives, live ammunition and radioactive material were some of the more serious undeclared items found in passenger bags this year.

Batteries and nail polish were two of the most common items found, followed by dry ice, nail polish remover and cigarette and barbecue lighters.

One passenger was found with a petrol-operated hedge-cutter while others brought on chainsaws, a “Whipper Snipper”, a camping stove and kerosene blow torch.

Other dangerous goods included a ball bearing handgun, a battery-powered wheelchair, Selleys liquid nails, brake cleaning fluid, sparklers, a Sodastream cylinder and gas-filled blow torches.

A CASA spokesman said passengers who are confused as to what they were allowed to take on a plane should refer to the authority’s new dangerous goods (DG) app.

The app was designed to inform passengers if an item was banned on an aircraft or needed to be specially packed or consigned, he said.

“In April 2014, a number of lithium batteries ignited inside the cargo hold of an aircraft on the ground at Melbourne airport,” the spokesman said.

“In the air, the batteries can go into thermal runaway causing a violent reaction resulting in fire.

“To keep dangerous goods safe air travellers must think about what they are carrying, check the DG app, seek advice from their airline and honestly answer dangerous goods questions when checking-in for flights.”

The fire occurred on a Fiji Airways plane waiting to depart from Melbourne airport to Nadi on April 26.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report released after the April 26 incident said the captain of the Boeing 737 aircraft declared a “Mayday” after observing heavy white smoke billowing from the cargo hold of the plane during an external pre-flight inspection of the plane.

Emergency crews uncovered 28 batteries, including six to eight which had been destroyed by the fire, in checked-in luggage.

The report said the owner of the luggage — a certified remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operator in Australia — had declared eight lithium batteries were being carried as hand-luggage.

The passenger had stated none were being brought on in the checked-in luggage.

The report said an electrical short involving the batteries had started the fire.

It said the bag had been screened through the oversized luggage point at Melbourne Airport.

“An initial investigation revealed that several lithium-ion polymer batteries and an RPA controller were contained in the case,” it said.

“An electrical short circuit involving the batteries resulted in the

initiation of a fire, destroying the contents and damaging the case.

“An RPA controller containing other, similar, lithium-ion polymer batteries was found in one of the passenger’s other checked-in bags.”

Under civil aviation laws, passengers failing to declare dangerous goods face penalties of up to seven years in prison.

Story and Photos:

Burnt battery balancers from the April fire incident. 
Picture: CASA

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