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How to Ship APU Fire Bottles as Non-Explosives in Aviation Logistics Blog

As we all witnessed, worldwide security and anti-terrorist measures have created an atmosphere of fear and distrust with respect to transportation. This environment is very evident for airline passengers, but it also exists in the cargo arena. With the recent security threat in Dubai, the situation will certainly intensify.

For obvious reasons, authorities are particularly vigilant and suspicious in the case of shipments of explosive devices, which has an adverse affect on the transporters’ ability to serve the Aviation Spares and AOG Community in shipping an article known in the industry as a “fire bottle.”

A fire bottle is actually a fire extinguisher that puts out a fire in the APU. It is inaccessible during flight and is activated by the flight crew through the use of a button in the cockpit. It works by an electrical current detonating small explosive cartridges attached to the extinguisher body.

APU Fire Bottle

A “fire bottle” when shipped as a spare is a dangerous good, classified as: Fire Extinguisher, UN 1044, Class 2.2 (Non-flammable Gas). The detonator cartridges (squibs), when shipped separately from the extinguisher, which is often the case, are dangerous goods classified as Explosives (Class 1). These require governmental approval (such as the DOT Office of Hazardous Materials) in the form of written authorization. The letter will include a proper shipping name, hazard class, and UN number. The DOT also assigns an “EX Number.”

It is really difficult to send these cartridges to certain areas of the world given the fact they are viewed as explosives. More so, is it hard to get them to an AOG in a timely manner with all of the red tape involved. Just try getting a box of explosives into North Africa, the Middle East, and certain South American countries and you will see what I mean.

But if we need the fire bottles right now, what are we to do?

Fortunately, the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations offer an interesting and helpful provision with respect to this commodity. Special Provision A19 declares that fire extinguishers of this type may include installed actuating cartridges without changing the classification of Class 2.2 provided the total quantity of deflagrating explosives does not exceed 3.2 g per extinguishing unit.

In plain English, if the detonators are attached to the extinguisher, it flies as Class 2.2, which should not present problem. Airlines that accept dangerous goods will easily accept this commodity. So here is my suggestion to solve this irritating dilemma:

When you need a fire bottle, prepare it for shipment with the detonating cartridges attached. It will most likely get to its destination in the timely manner that you intend it to.  This will help us to help you.

However, should you wish to ship the squibs separately, then if provided with the Competent Authority Certificate (in the USA that would be the EX letter from the DOT) along with the Shipper's Declaration, we will get your commodity to its destination. It may be more difficult to find an airline, and it may take more time, but we will definitely get it there.

Training Video:   Shipping Fire Extinguishers by Air

To learn more how to prepare fire extinguisher shipments for air transport, please view our easy to follow video training and learn:

- classification guidelines
- IATA and DOT packaging and labeling regulations
- how to complete Shipper's Declaration for Dangerous Goods 

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About the author

HAZMAT Training & Compliance
Michael Gotz has developed IATA-certified Dangerous Goods training programs and has been a panelist in numerous IATA Dangerous Goods international conferences. He is the author of published journal articles on the subject of the air... Read more.


Jerome Fields September 24, 2013 08:53:14 -0700
When removing and shipping fire bottles or squibs there are protective caps, usually metal, with a vent opening for emergency pressure release. Where would you order the protective caps?
Mike February 15, 2017 09:24:47 -0800
Is there a way in which to look up the squibs MPN and determine the amount of deflagrating explosives? I'm having trouble determining which squibs will be safe to ship installed in the bottles. Thanks!
William Nye March 28, 2018 09:36:22 -0700
Great Article Michael (Can I please ask you one question though ?)
If I want to send the cartridges separate, do I need a Federal Explosives License ?
Please educate me on this.....