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Esk8 and Airplanes: What a Nightmare

Originally published at: http://esk8.news/esk8-airplanes-what-a-nightmare/

With electric skateboards being an ideal last-mile solution for travel, it makes sense that many would want to take them along to have fun and save a few bucks when going on trips or vacation. However, due to a plethora of restrictions that exist globally, this can be dangerous for you, your board, and those around you. Here, we explore the do’s and don’ts of airplane travel with your esk8s, and the different countries where you’ll want to take them to.

History

Image Credit to CNN.com

Lithium batteries in general have a bad reputation due to their highly explosive nature. In September 2010, right around the time lithium battery demand was itself exploding due to use in phones, the heavy and volatile cells were still being flown around on cargo planes with little precaution taken to prepare them for air travel. This included the lack of cell insulation, allowing thermal runaway to take over entire groups of cells. On September 3rd, a UPS 747 went down when some cells auto-ignited and caused a fire that destroyed the entire cockpit control array. This, along with a few other incidents, sent the air industry into a frenzy of guidelines and protections regarding batteries and left us with what we have today.

Battery Type/Size

As you should know if you’re in the practice of esk8 building, the size and type of battery you use has a profound impact on how safe the board is. Your battery must be 99wh or less to take on board (136wh if pre-approved), or you can have a segmented battery which breaks into 99wh sections. Regardless of size, the volatility of common battery types goes as such:

  • Lithium Polymer (LiPo) is the most volatile
  • Lithium Ion Phosphate Prismatic (LiFePo)
  • Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) is somewhere in the middle
  • Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo) is the least volatile

In terms of being safe for those around you, I would advise not bringing LiPo batteries on airplanes. If you forget to stow batteries in your carry-on and end up putting lithium in the cargo hold, the type of battery that has the least chance of starting a fire in the cargo hold is LiFePo in a Cylindrical configuration, due to its inherently composed nature and lack of explosiveness. The most common type of cell in commercially produced boards is Li-Ion, however.

If you are absolutely intent on bringing your LiPo-powered machine on an airplane, drone users have some great advice and experience that you should look into.

Image Credit to chibatterysystems.com

Allowance by Country and Airline

There are various countries & airlines that have their own laws and guidelines regarding esk8, and on many occasions security that makes the decisions on whether or not to let you in with your skateboard have no idea what their own guidelines are. The result is that going from point A to point B over the air with your electric skateboard could get the vehicle confiscated, regardless of whether or not its legal or you’ve done it before. Just ask Casey Neistat – despite diverse opinion on his videos, he has plenty of experience with the complete luck-of-the-draw experiences of esk8 + airport security.

That being said, I don’t recommend bringing any esk8 on a flight or to a different country without being fully prepared (emotionally as well) to lose your vehicle permanently. FYI: United Airlines will not allow any electric skateboards on flights. Period.

How to Minimize Risk

One way to make sure that your esk8 is allowed on the plane is to have a small esk8. This makes it easier to stow and keep out of peoples way. Usually a 29″ deck is the perfect size.

Also, be responsible with it. Don’t turn your board on from the point that you enter airport A to the point that you leave airport B. A lot of airports have disallowed personal transport vehicles anyways, and attracting attention is stupid when you are trying to bring what is nothing less than a potential bomb on board.

Image Credit to Ben Schwartz

All in All

Esk8s are amazing last mile solutions – we all know that. So, if you’re bringing yours on board, make sure that you are doing everything you can to allow others to do the same in the future. Declare large batteries, be responsible with all batteries, and know the ins and outs of your vehicle and the airport system to make the process as smooth as possible. All of this will help, and the more research, the better. Have a great trip, take some photos of your ride in cool new places, and keep skating!

Other information on this topic and specific information by country can be found here.

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I would say this ranking is relative.
It might be right on the single cell level, but as soon as it goes into cell packs all this doesn’t count anymore.

Why I think so?
If to look from the side that most lipos already come factory assembled and just connected by the end user with a parallel or serial plugs there are way less connection points where something can go wrong.
A lot of LiIon packs used in diy are custom assembled. Sure there are legit battery builders out there, but there also not so talented builder.
Lose spot welds, rubbing balance wires…there are so many things which can go wrong.
And than let’s come back to the point when it’s already anyhow too late.
Let’s say one cell got into a thermal runaway,
Both, LiIon as well as lipos will release the same amount of gas in that process. I would say a very critical thing if you in a closed room like an airplane. Further LiIon tend to explode, not only vent and might catapult other parts close by all over the place. Lipos might just puff up with big flames. What’s better and what’s worth I really can‘t say.

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So true.
I have a lot of experience with LiPos and have only experienced one fire after a major airplane crash (not mine) and that includes many tacoed LiPo packs.

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Risk management involves a hierarchy of controls.
The first and most effective is Elimination.
So try not taking any batteries on the aircraft.
Maybe try sending them ahead.
If something does go wrong and your battery catches fire. You have the potential to turn a perfectly serviceable aircraft into “a smoking hole in the ground”.
Discharge them as much as possible take the absolute minimum if you must.
Ensure that you carry them on. If they catch fire there is a chance they can be dealt with by cabin crew.
It’s a massive risk. Common risk matrix analysis will inevitably lead to extreme risk. Due to the potential of a catastrophic event.

Don’t be that guy. Consider the safety of the other passengers and what is really at stake. I really love Esk8 I would like to Esk8 around at my destination to. But FFS don’t be an asshole.

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hoping someone will start battery rentals at airports, unlikely due to numbers of customers being low but I can still hope :wink:

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I traveled with my full sized trampa back to Taiwan.
Flight route was Boston -> HK -> Taiwan than back.
The board was parted and traveled as checked luggage.
The deck was checked as sports equipment in TRAMPA’s travel bag.
Carried on 4 lipos @ 6s 4500mah. (99.99whr) along with whr calculation and a print out of FAA guidelines regarding limits. I got stopped at every checkpoint but clear in less then 5 minutes after going over the paper work.

IMHO being prepared and knowing what the rules and you should be alright.

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Most of the time…

Unfortunately the NTSB is full of people that love the exercise of power. If someone at a checkpoint says you cant take it, you cant take it. You can go over their heads and likely get a reversal but by that point you’ve missed your flight & the airline is not going to refund you because the NTSB screwed up.

I just ship my board. At least if it gets lost I have insurance that will cover the cost of the board if not my time.

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Yes thats true.
I do go to the airport early just incase I have to deal with this.
Also board and batteries are always separated so I only have the batteries if it does go south

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I have no issue with saying lipo’s are more dangerous. Bare, unshelled hobby lipos are certainly more dangerous.

My one gripe is that lithium iron phosphate is denoted as the least dangerous. When in reality I think the ranking should be as such:

  • Lipo
  • Lithium iron phosphate prismatic
  • Lithium Ion
  • Lithium iron phosphate round

Since just like lithium ion, lifepo4 cells come in polymer bags as well as round formats.

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Is this true? I’ve actually never worked with or done research on lithium iron phosphate prismatics, so I’ll read up on those.

Thanks for the clarification, I’ll edit the article to fix that later today if my research supports your statement.

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United Airlines doesn’t allow the board to even be checked in? Dang that’s harsh… They should ban laptops and cellphones as well. can’t wait for the new fire free solid state batteries.

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They have. No batteries below in the cargo hold on non-freight flights. Everything lithium must be carried on.

Fwiw, I got to borrow a Hoyt Production board an bring it with me on a trip to Texas last month. Pulled batteries out beforehand, put in carry-on, checked the board. EZ peasy.

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This is the bag I use to check my longboard in. It always goes into the oversize ulggage belt. Fits my 39 inch longboard and a trampa deck just fine. Just make sure you pad the tips of your board so they dont cause damage to the bag and come straight through.

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I flew for thanksgiving with Lipos in my carry on. They were separately wrapped in bubble wrap and inside a fireproof bag. No questions were asked and the airline didn’t even know I had them. It was a very smooth process.

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Just travelled with my Colab
Boston -> HK -> Taiwan
Batteries where 4500 mah 6s lipos x4 (99whr) in lipo bags carry on
Boston xrayed twice.
HK verified whr and let me kept going no issue at all :smiley:

Took the hangers off the board padded it like crazy in a trampa carry bag checked as sports equipment

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I flew with my 65lb no-battery mountain board in a pelican case as checked luggage. Easy peasy but TSA did open and inspect it. Then I mailed the battery to my destination with usps.

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How much did you pay for shipping actually?

which pelican case? could you share?

Last time I shipped the whole board it was about $120 each way, This time I had a free checked luggage and it was $35 to mail the battery each way.

@ixf Pelican Vault V730

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Thx Klaus for this.

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