A push by the Federal Aviation Administration to ban laptop computers and other large electronic devices from checked bags on international flights is gaining traction.
The United Nations will consider the proposal in the coming week. It’s unclear if the FAA plans to extend the proposed ban to domestic flights as well, but it did note the danger of connecting international flights.
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.