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Jet on fire going down. FAA tests found that the anti-fire halon gas installed in airline cargo areas wouldn’t extinguish a lithium battery fire, but it prevents the blaze from spreading to adjacent material such as cardboard or clothing. (Photo: Shutterstock)

(Bloomberg) – A single personal electronic device that overheats and catches fire in checked luggage on an airliner can overpower the aircraft’s fire suppression system, potentially creating a fire that could rage uncontrolled, according to new government research.

Regulators had thought that single lithium battery fires would be knocked down by the flame-retardant gas required in passenger airliner cargo holds. But tests conducted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found the suppression systems can’t extinguish a battery fire that combines with other highly flammable material, such as the gas in an aerosol can or cosmetics commonly carried by travelers.

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