FAA Thinks Your Laptop Could Take Down a Plane
Posted on 10/24/2017
Due to the potential for catastrophic fires in the cargo holds of planes, the Federal Aviation Administration is calling on the world’s airline industry to ban large electronic devices like laptops from checked luggage.
According to The Associated Press, the FAA recently filed paperwork with the United Nations revealing lithium-ion rechargeable batteries from laptops could overheat. When next to an aerosol spray can, they could disable the plane’s fire suppression system.
As a result, the fire could go unchecked and result in “the loss of the aircraft.”
The FAA conducted a series of 10 tests simulating the thermal runaway of a battery next to aerosol containers that are permitted in checked baggage. The experiments saw fires develop almost immediately, and the aerosol cans exploded in less than one minute.
In tests, the fire spread so quickly that the Halon gas fire suppressant systems used in airline cargo compartments were unable to put out the fire before the explosion. While the explosion likely wouldn’t be enough to take down the plane, the lack of fire suppression would allow the blaze to spread, causing the catastrophic issues the FAA is addressing.
The FAA is proposing large electronic devices be banned from checked baggage unless they have specific approval from the airline. The FAA is backed by several organizations and companies, including the European Safety Agency, Airbus, the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Association and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Association.
The proposed ban on larger electronics is on the agenda for a meeting with the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization, which is meeting in Montreal through next week.
Though rechargeable lithium batteries pack more energy into smaller packages, they can self-ignite if they have a manufacturing flaw, are damaged, exposed to excessive heat, overcharged or packed too closely together. The resulting fires can burn up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, close to the melting point of the aluminum used in aircraft construction.
The U.S. government previously introduced a ban on laptops and other larger electronic devices from certain countries earlier this year with the intent of preventing terrorists from hiding an explosive device inside.
PHOTO: Laptops are part of the electronics ban issued by the U.S. government. (photo via Flickr/Remko van Dokkum)