Is my laptop dangerous?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

As readers might guess, my laptop has an invisible umbilical cord to me as I need it in order to write stories.

When I fly I use the time to work so my laptop is in my hand luggage. When UK and US authorities banned the carrying of laptops in hand luggage from certain countries and airports I was affected so into hold luggage went my laptop. When that was rescinded back into my hand luggage went the laptop.

At an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) meeting which has continued for a few days, there is a proposal from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would ban laptops and other large PED’s (personal electronic devices) from travelling in the hold.

Why?

Because tests have been carried out which show that the lithium batteries in laptops and other PED’s can be ignited by the proximity of other items packed in the same luggage. In one of the tests, an aerosol can of dry shampoo was strapped to the side of the laptop battery. In the words of the report, “Fire was observed almost immediately… The fire rapidly grew and within 40 seconds, the aerosol can of shampoo exploded with the resulting fire rapidly consuming the bag and its contents.” More worryingly, the report went on to say, “This test showed that, given the rapid progression of the fire, a halon fire suppression system cannot dispense halon quickly enough to reach a sufficient concentration to suppress the fire and prevent the explosion.” Other tests using nail varnish remover, alcohol rubbing solutions (surgical spirit) and hand sanitisers. Most performed in the same way as the dry shampoo test.

My problem is not that I mind carrying my laptop with me in hand luggage which I – and I would guess most of us – prefer to do. My problem is that having known about the potential problems with lithium batteries before why haven’t aerospace safety agencies carried out this testing before?

If you are interested in reading the full report, click here.

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