|By Arabian Post Staff| The United Nations is set to consider a proposal by the US Federal Aviation Administration to ban laptop computers and other large electronic devices from checked bags on international flights. It remains yet unclear whether the ban would be extended to domestic airlines.
Gulf airlines including Emirates and Qatar Airways were removed from the ban last August after these airlines suffered a huge drop in passenger numbers for months together following the restrictions.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently recommended that the U.N. agency that sets global aviation standards prohibit passengers from putting laptops and other large personal electronic devices in their checked bags.
The FAA says in a filing with the International Civil Aviation Organization that the lithium-ion batteries in laptops can overheat and create fires.
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. In the right conditions, the two could cause an explosion.
While most devices larger than a smartphone are already being carried onto flights, rather than checked, says the FAA, the risk of an in-cabin incident is notable smaller. The organization conducted ten tests with a fully charged laptop batter that was placed alongside a heater, which caused the battery’s temperature to rise continually.
When an aerosol can was placed alongside the laptop in one test, a fire started almost instantly—and an explosion occurred in 40 seconds.
That explosion could destroy the fire suppression system on the airline, which would let the fire go unchecked, and could cause the ultimate destruction of the plane, says the FAA.
The proposed ban is being discussed at a meeting of the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization’s panel on dangerous goods, which is being held this week and next week in Montreal.
First the US government temporarily banned laptops in the cabins of some airplanes.
The FAA has long been concerned about the potential hazardous of lithium batteries. The agency’s tests of the risks of shipping large quantities of batteries as cargo on airliners showed that when a single battery overheats, it can cause other nearby batteries to overheat as well. That can result in intense fires and the release of explosive gases.
Based on those test results, the FAA was able to convince ICAO two years ago to ban cargo shipments of lithium batteries on passenger planes and to require that batteries shipped on cargo planes be charged no more than 30 percent. The risk of overheating is lower if the battery isn’t fully charged.
More recently, the FAA conducted 10 tests of fully charged laptops packed in suitcases. In one test, an 8-ounce aerosol can of dry shampoo -which is permitted in checked baggage – was strapped to the laptop. 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. There was a fire almost immediately and an explosion within 40 seconds with enough force to potentially disable the fire suppression system.
Other tests of laptop batteries packed in suitcases with goods like nail polish remover, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol also resulted in large fires, although no explosions.
This is unclear. Individual countries can decide whether to implement domestic bans. The United States has not indicated if it will do so.
The effect of such a ban may not be great, since many passengers don’t check bags to avoid surcharges, and those that do often prefer to carry on electronics.