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Ban on Large Electronics in Cabin Could Have Unintended Catastrophic Consequences

The stowing of a large amount of devices powered by lithium-ion batteries may pose a dangerous fire risk, says one aviation expert.

It is intended to keep passengers safe, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directive that prohibits large electronic devices in the cabin could pose a more dangerous threat, says one aviation industry expert.

The prohibition on carrying devices larger than a cell phone is now in effect for US as well as UK-bound travelers from a number of airports across several Middle Eastern nations. The measure means that passengers originating from these destinations will now have to check these items into their hold luggage.

However, there are concerns that this ban could pose an unintended safety risk. Robert W Mann Jr, president of RW Mann & Company, an airline consultancy and analysis group, explained to the Guardian that filling the hold of a plane with devices powered by lithium-ion batteries was a cause for concern, especially given the potential for a catastrophic explosion.

“On an aircraft, how many [now-prohibited] devices are carried by, let’s say, 300 customers? How many spare batteries? How many batteries charged by unapproved chargers are in the hold?” he explained to the outlet.

“It would be harder to detect that and harder to fight an in-flight fire in the hold than it would if a fire occurred in the cabin. Most cabins have fire blankets and extinguishers that are useful against metal fires,” Mann added.

Back in 2014, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) produced a report on lithium-ion batteries. An extract of the document, as quoted by the outlet, confirmed that “[F]ires in flight involving certain types and quantities of lithium metal batteries have the potential to result in an uncontrolled fire leading to a catastrophic failure of the airframe.”

In line with Mann’s assessment of the ban, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also warned that there is a risk of “catastrophic hull loss due to significant identified dangers associated with the transport of lithium batteries as cargo.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

Comments are Closed.
Bradhattan March 28, 2017

Wasn't it Easyjet, with the lithium powered oxygen generators in the hold that resulted in fire, crash and loss of life?

Firewind March 25, 2017

To the topic of this article: Bingo. Also, a bomb in the hold can be detonated by a phone in the cabin. The hastiness and lack of thought or involvement of the FAA's own very excellent experts in this policy gives the impression that there is a much more serious scare than the reasons publicly given, if the 4-day push didn't..

airsurfer March 24, 2017

That is one of the first things I thought. Security checking on carry-on larger electronic devices can be made tighter, rather than this stupid measure.

chx1975 March 24, 2017

More than a few laptops these days not have a removable battery. I do not think tablets and ereaders ever had one. And even you could remove the laptop battery, the removable ones are typically large enough to hide something in them and they are mostly a metal ion that xray can't penetrate so if hiding some shit in there is your chosen fear du jour then this is a bad idea because now you won't even have a device to show that the battery functions as a battery should. Even with a functioning battery theoretically you could hide something in there but it's much, much harder.

token385 March 23, 2017

Maybe they will change the rule to remove the battery and take that in the cabin but the device in the hold. But yes the policy has not been well thought out.