What Would Happen If a Laptop Caught Fire in Flight?

So far, more than 5 million notebook batteries in the United States have been recalled this year.


In a 2003 report, Britain's Civil Aviation Authority found that a lithium-ion battery fire "will almost certainly cause severe harm to any passengers in the immediate vicinity. There is also a risk that the fire will spread to adjacent flammable material."

It went on to cite a "risk of harm from smoke inhalation to passengers and crew members, particularly if the electronic device is inside a carrying bag."

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for determining what can and cannot come on board U.S. flights, has not issued a ruling on the safety of passengers' laptop batteries.

But experts urge to keep the problem in perspective.

"There are well over 250 million laptops in use in the world," said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Campbell, Calif.-based Creative Strategies Inc. "And we've had less than 50 [battery fire] incidences recorded worldwide."

Added the CPSC's Stern: "I assume risk every day. I can't control my environment unless I stay in my house."

Even Mustaine is going to keep flying - with his laptop.

"I think the airlines just need to be smart about it. This is obviously a bad batch of batteries. Just keep track of the known bad batteries and check for them before people get on board."

Here's hoping the airlines get the message.



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