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Suitable alternatives to Halon 1301 are being sought throughout the aviation industry as a result of a worldwide agreement to ban the production and use of Halon 1301 due to the detrimental effects to the atmosphere. Fire extinguishing agents proposed for usein transport category airplane cargo compartments must demonstrate effective firefighting performance against the types of fires likely to occur in airplane cargo compartments. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) developed a minimum performance standard (MPS) evaluation method to compare the efficacy of any proposed agent against the known performance of Halon 1301. In this study the FAA Technical Center (FAATC) Fire Safety Branch evaluated VERDAGENT®, a potential fire suppression agent, in the FAATC Full Scale Fire Test Facility. Tests were performed according to procedures outlined in the MPS. VERDAGENT® is a blend of two components – carbon dioxide and 2-bromo-3,3,3-trifluoroprop-1-ene (i.e., 2-BTP, commonly called Halotron BrX). The MPS was originally designed considering single component agents similar to Halon 1301. Evaluation of a multicomponent agent required supplementary tests to investigate component separation and uniformity of dispersion throughout the cargo compartment. An additional challenge fire test, not within the scope of the MPS, was also performed. This fire load consisted of lithium-ion batteries and a combination of ordinary combustible materials and flammable liquids. VERDAGENT® demonstrated successful performance in the MPS. Component separation was not observed, and the agent was found to disperse uniformly in the cargo compartment. The agent also performed effectively against the additional challenge fire test. The results summarize that VERDAGENT® met the requirements of the MPS for aircraft cargo compartment Halon replacement fire suppression systems.
A simulated model of a full-sized aircraft cargo compartment was used to determine the effect of active cargo containers. Physical testing in conjunction with the simulated cargo compartment was used to validate the accuracy of the Fire Dynamics Simulator model which included an artificial smoke generator. The artificial smoke generator is currently used in certification of smoke detectors in aircraft cargo compartments. It consisted of heaters that vaporize oil to create smoke.
Arranging cargo containers with the smoke generator gives a baseline for smoke movement in the compartment. The smoke was measured using lasers and light meters which were partially obscured by the moving smoke. Fans were added to the containers as a stand-in for temperature-controlled cargo containers (TCC), also called “active” cargo containers, that had condenser cooling fans
Comparing the experimental test data to the simulated test data showed that the simulation is a good fit. The smoke trends between the tests are very similar and there was a difference in detection time typically less than 10 seconds over the entirety of the tests.
Using the Envirotainer RKN e1 as a typical TCC, an airflow of 35 CFM was used for the experimental testing. According to the testing and simulations, using TCCs with airflows of 17.5 or 35 CFM has an inconsistent effect on the smoke detection time, at the extremes, ±20 seconds, ±30% of detection time. At elevated airflow of 70 and 140 CFM, the time to smoke detection was almost always delayed, an average of 30 seconds (+50%) and at most up to 70 seconds (+110%). Delay of smoke detection could cause potentially dangerous conditions in the aircraft. Because of the delay, it is recommended to keep airflow of TCCs to below 70 CFM.
The aircraft industry in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) formed a task group in 2013 to consider using the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D7309 “Standard Test Method for Determining Flammability Characteristics of Plastics and Other Combustible Solid Materials Using Microscale Combustion Calorimetry” (MCC) as an alternate means of complying with 14 CFR 25 flammability regulations when a combustible constituent of a certified cabin construction is changed due to availability, economics, performance, or environmental concerns. A combustible constituent may be an adhesive, potting compound, film, fiber, resin, coating, binder, paint, etc., formulated with a new flame retardant, pigment, etc., that is used in the construction of a cabin material and can be tested in the MCC at the milligram scale. The use of ASTM D7309 for high precision measurements of aircraft cabin materials for regulatory purposes required a level of accuracy and reproducibility that was beyond the capability of the 2013 version of the ASTM D7309 standard when the FAA-Industry task group was formed. At the time, the calculation of the flammability characteristics did not include a correction for baseline driftwhich can be a significant source of error for low flammability aircraft cabin materials. The calculation of the calorimeter signal was revised in 2019 to include the effect of combustion gases, which improved the accuracy of the flammability parameters, and was codified as ASTM D7309-19 and later versions. Correction for baseline drift was complicated by random fluctuations of the MCC signal that precluded the subtraction of a pre-recorded background signal, as is routine in thermal analysis. This report describes an analytic approach to baseline correction that is specific to the MCC and can be used to correct the calorimeter signal for temperature-dependent drift during the test to improve the accuracy and reproducibility of MCC flammability parameters of combustible materials.
A method and criterion are described to assess the no-effect level of a constituent change on the fire performance of aircraft cabin material or construction. A constituent may be a thermosetting resin, coating, composite, adhesive, potting compound, film, fabric, elastomer, rubber, or thermoplastic. This can be used in the construction of a cabin material whose heat of combustion can be reliably measured using a 1-10 milligram sample in American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D7309-21, Standard Test Method for Determining Flammability Characteristics of Plastics and Other Solid Materials Using an MCC. Bench-scale fire testing as per 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 25.853 (Compartment Interiors, 2020) was conducted on several dozen cabin materials with changed constituents. Results showed that the relative difference in the microscale Fire Growth Capacity (FGC) of the certified and changed constituent in ASTM D7309-21 must be less than 0.3 (30%) to have no significant effect on the fire performance of the cabin material.
In February 2022, a package containing 140 lithium-ion pouch cells caught fire on a conveyor belt in a sort facility of an all-cargo airline. One of the packages in the shipment was sent to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) William J. Hughes Technical Center for hazard evaluation. Specialized cell analysis equipment was used to determine the state of charge (SOC) of the cells in the package. The measurements revealed that the cells were approximately at a 70% SOC, exceeding the maximum allowable shipping limit of a 30% SOC for the transport of cells and batteries classified as “UN3480, Lithium-ion batteries (including lithium-ion polymer batteries)”.
It was hypothesized that the fire in this incident started when the terminals of two cells packaged together made contact, causing the cells to short circuit, overheat, and enter thermal runaway. Testing was conducted to validate this hypothesis and to evaluate the fire risk of these cells at various SOCs. Key findings include: