The use of laptop computers on airliners may be banned entirely because of a series of incidents involving overheated batteries, including a May 15 incident in which a laptop caught fire in an overhead luggage compartment as a Lufthansa airliner prepared to leave Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, The Wall Street Journalreported.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented 339 cases in which lithium and lithium-ion batteries overheated, began to smoke or exploded since 2003, the Journal said.
Laptop fires have also been a problem on the ground. Two outdoorsmen narrowly escaped injury when their Dell laptop exploded and set fire to their pickup truck, setting off ammunition stored in the glove compartment.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recorded 60 incidents involving laptops and other battery-powered devices since 1991, according to the Journal.
In February, a United Parcel Service air cargo plane caught fire in Philadelphia and a shipment of batteries is suspected to be the cause. In 2004, a television news crew's battery exploded aboard an aircraft chartered by Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards, forcing an emergency landing.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has held hearings on the issue and is reportedly considering new rules tightening the use and transport of battery-powered devices on commercial airliners.