Laptops and tablets could be barred from being placed inside the cargo hold if civil aviation officials ratify a proposal that alleges that electronic devices placed inside the said section pose a fire hazard.
At a gathering organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the global airline community is being presented with the results of an investigation that was undertaken by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that makes a case for barring personal electronic gadgets away from checked-in baggage.
The proposal is a turnaround from the recent ban on laptops, tablets, cameras and other portable electronic devices inside the passenger cabins on flights going to the United States from several Middle East countries.
The FAA conducted numerous tests that packed a charged laptop computer inside a suitcase under different situations, varying the kind of suitcase used and the contents of the luggage.
A heater was placed against the lithium ion battery of the laptop, forcing it into “thermal runaway,” or to catch fire and explode. In one of the tests, researchers packed a can of dry shampoo beside the laptop and applied a heater to the contents of the suitcase.
A fire ensued almost immediately and within 40 seconds, the can exploded, consuming the bag and its contents, the study revealed.
Similar tests were made with a bottle of nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, and a bottle of 70% ethyl rubbing alcohol. Three of those tests also resulted in a large fire.
“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,” the report said.
“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 catches fire in checked baggage,” it continued.
The ICAO meeting of the dangerous goods panel concludes in Montreal this week.