“A single personal electronic device that overheats and catches fire in checked luggage on an airliner can overpower the aircraft’s fire suppression system, potentially creating a fire that could rage uncontrolled, according to new government research,” Alan Levin reports for Bloomberg.
“Regulators had thought that single lithium battery fires would be knocked down by the flame-retardant gas required in passenger airliner cargo holds. But tests conducted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration found the suppression systems can’t extinguish a battery fire that combines with other highly flammable material, such as the gas in an aerosol can or cosmetics commonly carried by travelers,” Levin reports. “‘That could then cause an issue that would compromise the aircraft,’ said Duane Pfund, international program coordinator at the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, speaking Wednesday at an aviation safety forum in Washington. PHMSA regulates hazardous materials on airliners along with FAA.”
“The findings last year by the FAA prompted the government to advocate that the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization call for a ban on electronic devices larger than a mobile phone in checked bags. That effort fell short, Pfund said,” Levin reports. “ALPA, the largest pilots union in North America… hasn’t taken a formal position on whether there should be a ban on lithium batteries in checked bags and some fear that many passengers would simply ignore it. At the very least, the union is seeking greater education campaigns so travelers are less likely to place spare batteries and electronics in their checked bags. While fires in carry-on items create their own hazards on flights, experience has shown that they can be extinguished with water. Crew can’t reach bags in cargo areas during flight, so must rely on a plane’s fire suppression systems.”
Read more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: Sobering. How long will our collective luck hold out? Oh, wait, it ran out years ago.
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