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NEW DELHI: Large personal electronic devices (PED) like laptops may soon be disallowed from check-in bags because of fears that their battery fire would go undetected, leading to possible catastrophes. In hand bags, on the other hand, cabin crew are now trained to handle PED fires as soon as anyone notices smoke emitting from the bag they are kept in. Just last week, a mobile phone caught fire on a Delhi-Indore flight which the cabin crew was able to quickly douse.
International aviation agencies have started considering banning big PEDs from check-in bags. Once a decision is taken by any leading aviation agency, India is also going to follow suit, said a senior DGCA official. Power banks, portable mobile chargers and e-cigarettes are already banned in check-in baggage in India.
The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) dangerous goods panel is examining a working paper on “PEDs carried by passengers and crew” to address safety concerns regarding PEDs being stowed in checked baggage. The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has submitted its test results in this ICAO paper, which concludes that fire in PED kept in cargo hold “could lead to loss of aircraft”.
“FAA fire safety branch conducted 10 tests utilising a fully charged laptop computer inside a suitcase. A heater was placed against a lithium ion cell in the battery of a laptop to force it into thermal runaway…. it was concluded that if a PED is packed in a suitcase with an aerosol can and a thermal runaway event occurs, there is the potential for an aerosol can explosion…. (In some cases) the fire suppression system of the aircraft is then compromised, which could lead to the loss of the aircraft,” the paper of ICAO, a UN agency, said. PEDs in passenger cabin are a safer bet as the cabin crew can take immediate action. Most consumer PEDs like cell phones, tablets and laptops are currently allowed in carry-on and checked baggage.