Laptops pose fire-hazard in checked baggage; should be banned: Report
Global airlines are likely to ban laptops, tablets, and other personal electronic devices in checked baggage following a proposal by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). FAA wants world civil-aviation authorities to prohibit such devices, citing the risk of potential fire hazards in cargo-compartments. FAA would present a report at the UN International Civil Aviation Organization's meeting on dangerous goods in Montreal this week.
US bans electronic devices in carry-on bags as security measure
The FAA's proposal comes only seven months after the US banned laptops, tablets, cameras and portable DVD players in the cabin (carry-on) baggage of flights from the Middle East. The passengers were forced to check their laptops and other devices into cargo compartments. But, FAA now proposes to ban the same practice (checking electronic devices into cargo holds) the US had earlier imposed.
Series of tests conducted by FAA
FAA's report is based on the findings of ten tests it conducted. For the experiments, FAA packed fully-charged laptops inside suitcases under various scenarios. It tested with different types of suitcases and various contents of the luggage. In every test, a heater was placed against the laptop's battery, triggering "thermal runway" - the process of supplying continuous heat that ignites fire or explosion.
Fire suppression-levels in commercial aircraft's cargo holds are different
FAA stated: "Globally, there are aircraft in the commercial fleet that do not have the same level of cargo fire suppression in the cargo hold, which places passengers in greater jeopardy if a PED (portable electronic device) catches fire in checked baggage."
Experiments demonstrate how everyday items can trigger thermal runway
The FAA researchers packed a dry shampoo can beside a laptop in a suitcase and placed a heater near it. Almost immediately, the suitcase caught fire within 40 seconds as the can exploded, consuming the contents. Other tests were conducted replacing the dry shampoo with hand sanitizer, nail polish remover, and 70% ethyl rubbing alcohol. Large fires ensued in three other tests too.
The report stated: "The outcome of the testing indicates that large PEDs in checked baggage mixed with an aerosol can produce an explosion and fire that the aircraft cargo fire suppression system in Class C cargo compartments may not be able to safely manage."