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Posted by Jody Victor's Crew on

Laptops in Checked Luggage Pose Fire, Explosion Risk

The U.S. government is urging the world airline community to ban large, personal electronic devices like laptops from checked luggage because of the potential for a catastrophic fire.

Money.com reports that the Federal Aviation Administration said in a paper filed recently with a U.N. agency that its tests show that when a laptop’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery overheats in close proximity to an aerosol spray can, it can cause an explosion capable of disabling an airliner’s fire suppression system. The fire could then rage unchecked, leading to “the loss of the aircraft,” the paper said.

The FAA has conducted 10 tests involving a fully-charged laptop packed in a suitcase. A heater was placed against the laptop’s battery to force it into “thermal runaway,” a condition in which the battery’s temperature continually rises.

In one test, an 8-ounce aerosol can of dry shampoo —which is permitted in checked baggage — was strapped to the laptop. There was a fire almost immediately and it grew rapidly. The aerosol can exploded within 40 seconds.

The test showed that because of the rapid progression of the fire, Halon gas fire suppressant systems used in airline cargo compartments would be unable to put out the fire before there was an explosion, the FAA said. The explosion might not be strong enough to structurally damage the plane, but it could damage the cargo compartment and allow the Halon to escape, the agency said. Then there would be nothing to prevent the fire from spreading.

Other tests of laptop batteries packed with potentially dangerous consumer goods that are permitted in checked baggage like nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, and rubbing alcohol also resulted in large fires, although no explosions.

As a result, the paper recommends that passengers shouldn’t be allowed to pack large electronic devices in baggage unless they have specific approval from the airline. The paper says the European Safety Agency, the FAA’s counterpart in Europe; Airbus, one of the world’s largest makers of passenger airliners; the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Association, and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Association, which represents aircraft makers, concurred in the recommendation.

Since 2006, three cargo jets have been destroyed and four pilots killed by in-flight fires that investigators say were either started by batteries or made more severe by their proximity.

Posted by Jody Victor's Crew on

From Carry-On to Ride-On

A Chicago businessman is selling a rideable carry-on bag. Rather than pulling your luggage from terminal to terminal, travelers can sit on the Modobag and reach speeds up to 8 mph thanks to an electric motor. It’s small enough to be carried on almost any airline.

The bag sold for about $1,000 during the Modomag Indiegogo campaign. The company envisions customers using the bag for more than just airport travel. He recommends office workers ride it to the train or around large conferences. O’Donnell regularly takes his Modobag in Chicago bike lanes to run errands.

The Modobag has a range of about eight miles. Its battery power is intentionally set just under the FAA’s 100 watt hour limit so that travelers can take the bag on planes. The company says the bag can charge up to 80% in 15 minutes.

Modobag includes a memory foam seat that’s strong enough to support a person up to 260 pounds. Riders control the suitcase with a throttle and handbrake.

O’Donnell started working on the project full time two years ago after the idea came to him while lugging a suitcase through an airport.

Modobag appears to have found interest so far. Its Indiegogo campaign reached its funding goal of $50,000 in two days and still has a month left. Modobag will start shipping bags to customers in January 2017.