How Can a Laptop Bring down an Airplane?

By August 17, 2018 August 11th, 2020 IATA and ICAO, Safety

Airplane in Flight

Cell Phone Fire Aboard Airplane

If you have seen the news, recently a cellphone aboard an airplane caught fire before take-off, leading to an evacuation (FOX News).

When I first saw this story, I was grateful that this event took place before the airplane took off and they were able to get everyone off of the airplane safely. But a few questions arose, what if it happened in the air, and what if it happened to a laptop computer in cargo?  Well, regulators had previously believed that a flame-retardant gas required in airliner cargo holds would be able to suppress any type of single lithium battery fire. This gas, called halon is a liquefied, compressed gas that can stop the spread of fire by chemically disrupting its combustion.

However, recent tests conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration found the halon gas suppression systems can’t put out a battery fire once it combines with other highly flammable material, such as the gas in an aerosol can or cosmetics. The potential dangerous combination can cause flames to spread, overwhelming the fire suppression systems in airplane cargo holds, meaning it is possible under the right circumstances that a single laptop battery could catch fire and cause an airliner to crash. The possibility is such a concern that the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the biggest pilot union in North America, is now thinking of recommending the ban of battery powered items, like tablets and laptops, from a plane’s luggage hold.

Safety Tips

Although there is no formal ban on lithium-ion powered electronics inside checked bags yet, below are few safety tips:

  • Gadgets with lithium-ion batteries should be kept in your carry-on bag and not inside your checked luggage as much as possible.
  • If you need to keep your gadget inside your checked bag, make sure it’s off during a flight. Standby and sleep modes can still overheat the battery.
  • Make sure you pack your gadget away from flammable items like spray cans, cosmetics and perfumes.
  • If you are shipping lithium batteries, use our CellBlockEx Fire suppressant cushioning


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Michael Zendano

Michael Zendano

Michael Zendano started with ICC Compliance Center back in 2016 with several years in the packaging field as a Quality Control Manager. In addition, he has 8 years experience in teaching. Michael works at the Niagara Falls Office as the Regulatory Packaging Expert where he manages packaging projects and procedures and is a member of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IOPP) and The Chemical Packaging Committee (CPC) . Degrees: M.S. Science of Education.