[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 188 (Wednesday, September 29, 1999)]
[Pages 52573-52574]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-25318]



Research and Special Programs Administration
[Docket No. RSPA-99-5143; Notice No. 99-9]

Hazardous Materials: Advisory Guidance; Transportation of 
Flammable Gas Torches

AGENCY: Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), DOT.

ACTION: Advisory Guidance.


SUMMARY: This advisory guidance is to remind all persons who travel or 
ship materials by aircraft that flammable gas torches are prohibited in 
passenger-checked or carry-on baggage and regulatory restrictions apply 
when flammable gas torches are offered as cargo for air transport. 
Recent incidents in which flammable gas torches ignited during 
transportation suggest that many persons are not aware of the 
requirements and prohibitions applicable to flammable gases and flame-
producing devices.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eric Nelson, Office of Hazardous 
Materials Standards, RSPA, Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh 
Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590-0001, Telephone (202) 366-8553, or 
William Wilkening, Dangerous Goods and Cargo Security Program, FAA, 
Department of Transportation, 800 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, 
DC 20591 Telephone (202) 267-7530.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Recent incidents involving micro-torches and 
larger torches in the air transport system highlight an urgent need to 
warn airline passengers not to pack flammable gas torches in their 
checked or carry-on baggage. In addition, persons offering these 
torches as cargo for transportation are subject to the Hazardous 
Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) and must comply with 
all applicable requirements.

I. Background

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made RSPA aware of 
several recent incidents where flammable gas torches ignited during 
transportation that highlight the need to assure torches are 
transported in accordance with the requirements in the HMR, because of 
the risks posed by passengers carrying torches in their checked or 
carry-on baggage.
    On April 22, 1999, at Seattle Tacoma Airport, checked baggage was 
being transferred between connecting flights. Ramp personnel heard a 
popping sound coming from a soft-sided duffel bag, and then noted a 
burning smell and heat emanating from the bag. When the bag was opened, 
air carrier personnel discovered a compressed gas cylinder fitted with 
a self-igniting torch assembly, with the switch in the ``on'' position. 
The bag also contained a butane barbeque lighter, a one-quart can of 
flammable paint, and an eight-ounce can of flammable adhesive, which 
are all regulated materials.
    On April 1, 1999, at a cargo air carrier's sort facility in New 
York City, a box containing a cylinder charged with a flammable 
compressed gas caught fire. The electronic igniter on the torch head, 
which was attached to the gas cylinder, was discovered with its switch 
in the ``on'' position. Apparently, the package contents, which were 
loosely arranged, shifted enough to activate the trigger of the torch 
head, which ignited the gas, causing a flame that ignited the package.
    On February 21, 1999, at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County 

[[Page 52574]]

while a checked toolbox was being loaded into an aircraft, it exploded 
and injured two airline employees. One of the items in the toolbox was 
a butane torch equipped with a refillable gas canister. The passenger 
who checked the toolbox as baggage claimed that he completely emptied 
the canister by setting the lever to the open position for 
approximately four hours.
    On August 23, 1998, at Houston International Airport, a toolbox 
checked as baggage gave off a flame as it was being loaded aboard an 
aircraft. A micro-torch with a refillable gas canister was found inside 
the toolbox. The micro-torch lacked safety devices to prevent 
accidental ignition.
    On March 3, 1997, at Dulles International Airport, a small metal 
suitcase exploded while it was being loaded onto a conveyor belt. A 
ramp agent was struck in the head by fragments from the exploding 
suitcase and sustained minor injuries. The explosion appeared to have 
been caused by a charged butane micro-torch used for heating wax that 
is applied to skis.
    Based on these incidents, RSPA and the FAA are concerned that many 
people may not be fully aware of the provisions of the HMR pertaining 
to the transportation of torches and similar devices. Ignition of a 
torch and the subsequent risk of fire aboard an aircraft constitute a 
grave threat to transportation safety.

II. Requirements for the Transportation of Flammable Gas Torches

    Flammable gas torches may be designed in various configurations and 
differ in their intended use. However, all are forbidden to be carried 
aboard passenger-carrying aircraft as either checked or carry-on 
baggage. Butane, propane, and other flammable gases must be offered for 
transportation and transported in full compliance with the HMR.


    Cigarette lighters or similar devices (such as mini-or micro-
torches) equipped with an ignition element and containing gaseous fuel 
are regulated under the HMR as Lighters or Lighter refills and subject 
to the provisions of Secs. 173.21 and 173.308. Section 173.21 forbids 
the transportation of packages containing a cigarette lighter or 
similar device equipped with an ignition element and containing fuel, 
except that a cigarette lighter or a similar device may be shipped if 
the design of the device and its inner packaging has been examined by 
an approved laboratory, and specifically approved by the Associate 
Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety. Transportation 
regulations which apply to these devices include fuel capacity and 
filling limits, pressure capability of the device, and packaging 
restrictions. Devices containing a flammable gas must conform to the 
quantity limits and packaging requirements specified in Sec. 173.308.

Larger Torches

    A flammable gas torch that includes as one of its components a 
cylinder charged with liquified butane or propane gas is regulated 
under the HMR as Liquified petroleum gas, UN 1075, and subject to the 
packaging requirements of Sec. 173.304. Flammable gases are forbidden 
on passenger-carrying aircraft. Flammable gases may be transported on 
cargo aircraft only if they are packaged, marked, and labeled, and 
otherwise conform to the requirements of the HMR. A torch head, many of 
which are self-igniting, may not be attached to the cylinder. In the 
above-described incidents, the owners of the torches did not remove the 
torch heads before packing them, which greatly increases the 
probability that the torch will activate and start a fire.

III. Reminder to Passengers, Cargo Offerors and Transporters

    Anyone who offers for transportation or transports torches is 
encouraged to carefully review the requirements in the HMR, to examine 
all shipping procedures, and, where necessary, take measures to prevent 
potential incidents in transportation. Passengers, shippers, and 
carriers are reminded that the offering for transportation or carriage 
aboard aircraft of any forbidden material in violation of the HMR may 
subject them to enforcement action, including the assessment of 
criminal or civil penalties.
    Additional information on the requirements for shipping torches may 
also be obtained by calling the RSPA Hazardous Materials Information 
Center at (800) HMR49-22 (467-4922) between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. 
Eastern time, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays, or the 
FAA Dangerous Goods and Cargo Security Program at (202) 267-7530. 
Information is also available at the following Internet sites: http://
hazmat.dot.gov/ and http://cas.faa.gov/cas/dgp.htm.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on September 24, 1999.
Alan I. Roberts,
Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety.
[FR Doc. 99-25318 Filed 9-28-99; 8:45 am]