Panic is a bad counselor

New security procedures are taking effect at airports in Asia and Europe for flights bound for the USA. They vary by country and are being implemented over a period of several months. Although the deadline was late October, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has given several airlines an extension until early 2018 to comply with the new rules.

They imply more passengers “randomly” selected for additional screening, more scrutiny of electronic devices and more travelers subjected to questioning either through verbal questioning or questionnaires passengers must fill out.

In March 2017 we already saw bans of large portable electronic devices (PEDs) - like laptops - in the cabin that were lifted after a few months. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) required they would be transported in the hold.

This made flying more dangerous as those devices are powered by lithium batteries that may overheat and cause a fire. If this would occur in the cabin, the crew can immediately extinguish the fire and monitor the device for possible re-ignition. However, they cannot do anything if a fire starts in the hold.

Interestingly, a working paper by the Dangerous Goods Panel of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was discussed in Montreal, October16-27, 2017. It proposes to amend the list of dangerous goods permitted to be carried by passengers or crew to address safety concerns with PEDs being stowed in checked baggage.

The Dangerous Goods Panel proposes the exact opposite of the laptop ban that DHS introduced in March 2017. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) presented the results of the various tests involving PEDs in checked luggage, as well as, in some form of protective package.

The result of the discussions is an agreement by the group that the current allowance for passengers to pack PEDs in checked baggage should be revisited. In particular, that this should not be allowed, without a specific approval by the operator.

It is devastating for DHS that also experts now explicitly state that the laptop ban was dangerous and put passengers and crews at risk. Once again it illustrates that panic is a bad counselor.

Representatives from 4 groups concur that PEDs should not be permitted in the hold, based on the test results presented. Those groups are:

a) European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA);
b) Airbus;
c) International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Association (ICCAIA);
d) International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Association (IFALPA).

Related: “Laptop ban not yet extended

Tags: laptop ban, aviation security, lithium batteries

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