Laptop Batteries To Blame For Aircraft Fires?

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Although UPS has so far declined to confirm just what was on board the DC-8, the NTSB probe is looking at whether lithium ion batteries, of the type used to power laptop computers, might have caused the fire. Although problems are statistically rare (339 battery-related fires out of the tens of millions of batteries in service) they can have spectacular results. An exploding cellphone battery is blamed for causing $100,000 in damage to a California home last year and two years ago the FAA banned non-rechargeable lithium batteries as cargo on passenger planes because it found that halon, the fire suppressant used in jetliners, couldn't put out a lithium fire. The rechargeable type most commonly found in consumer electronics are made differently and are considered safer but, according to the Chicago Tribune, the FAA said it had "concerns" about carrying the rechargeable type on airliners. UPS says it followed all the rules when it loaded the DC-8, including notifying Philadelphia airport authorities of the hazardous materials on board. The company would not disclose the list, however. "We operated according to federal regulations," Frank Skubis, UPS's director of safety, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We intend to continue to do that."

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