The US government wants a worldwide airline ban on large electronic devices like laptops from luggage in plane holds because of the potential for a catastrophic fire that could even bring a jetliner down.
The Federal Aviation Administration says its tests show that when a laptop’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery overheats in close proximity to an aerosol spray can it can cause an explosion capable of disabling an airliner’s fire suppression system.
The fire could then rage unchecked, leading to “the loss of the aircraft,” the paper said.
The UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, sets global aviation safety standards and the proposed ban is on the agenda of a meeting of ICAO’s panel on dangerous goods being next week in Montreal.
According to NBC News the FAA has conducted 10 tests involving a fully-charged laptop packed in a suitcase. A heater was placed against the laptop’s battery to force it into “thermal runaway,” a condition in which the battery’s temperature continually rises.
In one test, an 8-ounce aerosol can of dry shampoo — which is permitted in checked baggage — was strapped to the laptop. There was a fire almost immediately and it grew rapidly. The aerosol can exploded within 40 seconds.
The test showed that because of the rapid progression of the fire, Halon gas fire suppressant systems used in airline cargo compartments would be unable to put out the fire before there was an explosion, the FAA said.
The explosion might not be strong enough to structurally damage the plane, but it could damage the cargo compartment and allow the Halon to escape and then there would be nothing to prevent the fire from spreading.
As a result, the paper recommends that passengers shouldn’t be allowed to pack large electronic devices in baggage unless they have specific approval from the airline.
Since 2006 three cargo jets have been destroyed and four pilots killed by in-flight fires that investigators say were either started by batteries or made more severe by their proximity.
AvSax fire containment bags designed to deal with fires in electronic devices are now on board several major US carriers.
They have been deployed on aircraft 20 times so far this year.
For more on this story go to https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/airplane-mode/laptops-checked-bags-pose-fire-explosion-risk-faa-warns-n812496