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29-December-2007 : The New Question - Can I Bring This Battery On Board?
Yesterday, the 28th of December 2007, a simple press release was sent out by the the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. On most days none of us know who the the US DOT PHMSA is, and most days we don't care. Yesterday however photographers all over the United States were reading the new rules set down by the US DOT PHMSA on www.safetravel.dot.gov and on news sites.
Why does the US DOT PHMSA now affect us? Because they released a new set of rules that may directly our ability to carry spare batteries on-board aircraft while traveling with our camera equipment. On the surface the rules that go into affect on 1-January-2008 look like this
- Spare batteries are the batteries you carry separately from the devices they power. When batteries are installed in a device, they are not considered spare batteries.
- You may not pack a spare lithium battery in your checked baggage
- You may bring spare lithium batteries with you in carry-on baggage
- Even though we recommend carrying your devices with you in carry-on baggage as well, if you must bring one in checked baggage, you may check it with the batteries installed.
The following quantity limits apply to both your spare and installed batteries. The limits are expressed in grams of “equivalent lithium content.” 8 grams of equivalent lithium content is approximately 100 watt-hours. 25 grams is approximately 300 watt-hours:
- Under the new rules, you can bring batteries with up to 8-gram equivalent lithium content. All lithium ion batteries in cell phones are below 8 gram equivalent lithium content. Nearly all laptop computers also are below this quantity threshold.
- You can also bring up to two spare batteries with an aggregate equivalent lithium content of up to 25 grams, in addition to any batteries that fall below the 8-gram threshold. Examples of two types of lithium ion batteries with equivalent lithium content over 8 grams but below 25 are shown below.
- For a lithium metal battery, whether installed in a device or carried as a spare, the - Almost all consumer-type lithium metal batteries are below 2 grams of lithium metal. But if you are unsure, contact the manufacturer!
The full text of details from the US DOT PHMSA can be found here : http://www.USDOTPHMSA.notlong.com
OK, there are some huge loop holes in this new rule and there is potential for a huge problem for TSA Agent-Screeners at check points who are not trained to differentiate battery types or "gram weights" of Lithium in batteries. The TSA Agents get knocked all the time, but they really do have a hard job and this just makes the job harder and potentially more confusing for the regulations they must enforce.
The ban only technically applies to "extended life" lithium batteries, such as those for "professional" audio/video/photo equipment. The batteries sited are between 8 grams and 25 grams of lithium. If you look at he 3rd party PB511A 1800 Mah batteries they have only 0.98 grams of Lithium, well under the allowed amounts of Lithium in weight allowed on board for spare batteries.
For those with the Canon 20D/30D/40D/5D or Nikon D200/D300 bodies, these are considered consumer and prosumer bodies, and would not qualify as "professional photo equipment" with the US DOT PHMSA's new ruling for flying with spare batteries.
A spare EN-L4 or PB511A is also not considered to be an "extended life" battery by the manufacturer, this should also, in theory, exempt it from the US DOT rules.
Of course the problem , as always, is dealing with under trained TSA Agent-Screeners at the check points. These people are not qualified to make the decisions they are forced to make at the check points in regard to what is 'extended life" vs "standard equipment", what is "professional" vs "consumer" (your Canon 5D and PowerShot G6 use the same battery, remember that). How will a TSA Agent-Screener determine what is a Li-Ion vs NiMH onsite? If they determine Li-Ion how will they determine the amount of grams of Lithium in the battery on-site?
To avoid any problems or confusion at security check points, I will be removing all the hard to decipher OEM stickers from my camera batteries (currently NP-E3 Ni-MH batteries), much like how the 3rd party Black Diamond batteries are shipped. In the place of the OEM stickers I will be placing on a printed label that simply reads this "NiMH - FAA/DOT Compliant For Air Travel." This should cut down on the problems you may face flying with batteries as of 1-January-2008.
I also strongly suggest printing out the info from the DOT and bringing it with you. Why? Yo may need to remind over zealous screeners that this new rule ONLY affects Lithium Batteries and that it should only affect (in theory) Extended Life Spare Batteries.
Your NiMH rechargeable AA batteries for your flash? They are not affected at all, pack 100 if you want. If you use Energizer Lithium batteries, ditch them and pick up some NiMH batteries instead.