Laptop ban spurred by terror concern raises warning of fire risk

Passengers being told to place electronic devices into cargo holds just as international safety agencies have begun barring bulk shipments of rechargeable lithium cells The US order prohibiting passengers from carrying laptops and other electronics into the cabins of some overseas flights is raising concerns about a risk unrelated to terror: the potential for those devices? lithium-based batteries to catch fire in the baggage hold. The Flight Safety Foundation, a non-profit funded by airlines and other groups to reduce the risk of accidents, on Friday issued a press release urging the industry to take steps not to ?introduce another risk? from the highly flammable batteries powering the electronics. The concern is that passengers are being told to place electronic devices into cargo holds just as international safety agencies have begun barring bulk shipments of rechargeable lithium cells because of evidence that they can spontaneously catch fire and even explode. ?It?s potentially a transfer of consequential risk,? Greg Marshall, vice president of Global Programs at the safety group, said in an interview. ?We?re going to see large numbers of these devices carried in the cargo hold of aircraft that would otherwise have been in the cabin.? The Federal Aviation Administration logged 31 cases last year in which lithium-based batteries either caught fire or smouldered on airline flights. Three cargo aircraft have been destroyed by fires attributed at least in part to lithium batteries, two of which were fatal accidents, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The Department of Homeland Security didn?t immediately respond to a request for comment on the safety foundation?s release. The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization last year concluded that lithium-ion cells were too risky to be carried in bulk on passenger flights after manufacturers Boeing Co. and Airbus SE advised airlines that existing fire suppression systems weren?t adequate to protect planes against lithium fires. Courtesy: Gulf News

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