RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Laptops and tablets are becoming a big worry for the Federal Aviation Administration.
So much so, the agency wants them banned from being stored in the cargo holds of international flights.
The FAA fears they’ll explode and start a fire that will bring down an aircraft.
As a result, The FAA and is now urging the United Nations to enact that ban in the next two weeks.
It’s not the laptop the FAA is worried about per se, it’s the power source.
Laptops, tablets, cameras and cell phones are all powered by lithium ion batteries.
The FAA says it’s not a good idea to put those devices in a suitcase that is stored in the cargo hold of an aircraft because those batteries can explode, creating a fire that’s difficult to extinguish.
Fires generated by those batteries are hard to put out because the batteries give off a gas that ignites and keeps burning at temperatures close to 1,110 degrees Fahrenheit, during something known as it’s called thermal runaway.
Lithium ion battery fires have already been responsible for the loss of three cargo aircraft since 2006.
A research paper detailing 10 tests conducted by the FAA on laptops with lithium ion batteries stored in a suitcase show what could happen in the cargo hold of a passenger jet.
Turns out, if a lithium battery in a checked bag overheats next to an aerosol or nail polish remover, or even rubbing alcohol, it can generate a fire that burns so hot some airlines couldn’t put it out.
In one FAA test, an 8-ounce aerosol can of dry shampoo was strapped to an overheated laptop. It exploded in 40 seconds.
Aviators say the proposed ban is a good idea.
“Having seen the devastation that these batteries can cause I think every airline pilot is thinking about it and they would welcome this decision by the FAA, said former pilot Ross Aimer who is now the CEO of Aero Consulting Experts.
Right now, the FAA is not asking for that laptop ban on domestic flights and some travelers are puzzled.
“I don’t think it makes any sense,” says Georgia Lineback, who CBS North Carolina spoke with at RDU after she arrived from a flight that originated in Florida. “If it’s international how is it different from domestic? They fly at the same height, the same rates, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Even if the UN approves the ban, it could take years for foreign countries to actually implement it.