Toronto - An edict from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expected to prompt an announcement today regarding the expansion of the laptop ban on US airlines to now include flights from all European countries.
Toronto – An edict from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expected to prompt an announcement today regarding the expansion of the laptop ban on US airlines to now include flights from all European countries.
The ban in question originally targeted flights from ten predominantly Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East, following increased concerns regarding the use of laptops and other so-called “large electronic devices” as explosive tools of terrorism.
Speaking to the possibility of expanding the band to include European airlines, the DHS said in a statement, “No final decisions have been made on expanding the restriction of large electronic devices in aircraft cabins, however, it is under consideration. DHS continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when necessary to keep air travelers safe.”
The original laptop ban, and now talk of expanding it, has raised concerns that the ban could actually end up endangering flights instead of safeguarding them. The alarm is being raised by the multiple occurrences of lithium-ion batteries catching fire. A collection of checked electronic devices stored in a cargo hold possibly catching fire, with no one available to fight the blaze at its source, is raising serious questions as to the wisdom of the ban in its current form.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published findings in 2016 which revealed 33 cases of on-board fires caused by personal devices. Three of these fires were caused by laptops and two by tablets.
Extensive tests have been carried out regarding the effective use of halon extinguishers against such device fires. Results showed the extinguishers proved useless in putting out a lithium-ion battery fire. In fact, simulations showed the cargo hold being blown out in an explosion sufficient to bring an aircraft down.
Crew members, however, have a better track record in extinguishing these types of fires in the cabin. In 2016, Delta reported two such fires successfully extinguished by the crew. It was not, however, thanks to the on-board halon extinguishers.
In a statement released by the Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA), which represents pilots worldwide, they said “In fact, the fire proceeded as if the halon were not present.”
In 2016,an Airbus A320 taking off from Mogadishu suffered an explosion which caused it to make an emergency landing. Al-Shababb took responsibility for the blast, claiming it had found a way to turn a laptop into an explosive device.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) now acknowledges publicly that this type of improvised explosive device has been “the greatest security risk to commercial aircraft for some years.”