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airline safety

Terrifying FAA report finds one can of hairspray in checked luggage could cause an in-flight explosion

An aerosol can and a lithium-ion powered laptop could spell destruction for an airplane, The Associated Press reported Friday, citing a U.S. government report recently filed with the U.N. If a large lithium-ion battery powered device overheats near an aerosol can in a piece of checked luggage, the Federal Aviation Administration warned, an entire airplane could become engulfed in flames before in-flight staff could do anything to stop it.

The FAA placed an 8-ounce can of dry shampoo near a laptop with a lithium-ion battery and forced the laptop to overheat. In less than 40 seconds, the aerosol can exploded, a blast that could disable a fire suppression system aboard a plane. The FAA tried the same test with nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, and rubbing alcohol, and each of those tests resulted in large fires — which could burn hot enough to cause aircraft aluminum to reach its melting point — but no explosions.

After 10 tests, the FAA sent the report to the U.N.'s aviation authority, the International Civil Aviation Organization. That organization recommends aviation safety measures, but cannot force countries to adhere to them.

The FAA paper asks that airlines require passengers to get permission to pack lithium-ion battery-powered large devices in checked luggage. The report does not state whether any domestic rules about checked luggage will be altered as a result of the findings.