Laptops in checked bags pose fire and explosion risk

Laptops in checked bags pose fire and explosion risk

The U.S. government is urging airlines around the world to ban cameras, laptops, and other large personal electronic devices from checked luggage, citing the risk of batteries causing catastrophic fires.

The issue of overheating rechargeable lithium-ion batteries has always been an area of concern, which was escalated recently with the so-called "laptop ban" on flights from certain Middle Eastern airports.

The fears center around the rechargeable lithium-ion battery in devices such as laptops and its proximity to other objects, such as an aerosol spray can of hairspray or dry shampoo. After heating the battery, a fire broke out nearly immediately and an explosion came within 40 seconds.

That could lead to "the loss of the aircraft", it said.

The ban is going to be discussed during a two-week gathering of the ICAO now being held in Montreal, Canada, according to the AP.

FAA officials said due to the speed of the fire's progression, a cargo hold's fire suppression system would likely be unable to extinguish a fire before an explosion.

"I$3 t was concluded that if a [portable electronic device] is packed in a suitcase with an aerosol can and a thermal runaway event occurs, there is the potential for an aerosol can explosion", the FAA writes.

With other tests using laptop batteries packed inside suitcases with possible unsafe goods that are allowed in checked baggage, such as remover for nail polish, rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer also resulted in fires, although there were no explosions.

"The European Safety Agency, the FAA's counterpart in Europe; Airbus, one of the world's largest makers of passenger airliners; the International Federation of Airline Pilots' Association, and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Association, which represents aircraft makers, concurred in the recommendation", the paper further elaborated.

"The fires can burn up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, close to the melting point of the aluminum used in aircraft construction", according to the news agency.

Three cargo jets have been destroyed and four pilots have been killed since 2006 by in-flight fires which according to investigators were started by batteries.

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