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Transportation

Laptops Could Be Banned From Checked Bags on Planes Due To Fire Risk (cnn.com) 177

Readers share a report: Laptops could be banned from checked baggage on planes due to a fire risk under a proposal being recommended by an international air safety panel. According to a report, an overheating laptop battery could cause a significant fire in a cargo hold that fire fighting equipment aboard the plane would not be able to extinguish. That could "lead to the loss of the aircraft," according to the proposal. The ban will be considered by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations organization, at its meeting this month. Even if the organization endorses the proposal from its Dangerous Goods Panel, which is making the recommendation, it would be up to regulators in individual nations to pass rules to enforce it. The U.S. FAA has no comment on the proposal. But it is represented on the panel that is supporting the ban, and its research on the risk of fires from laptops is included in the proposal.
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Laptops Could Be Banned From Checked Bags on Planes Due To Fire Risk

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  • by Bender Unit 22 ( 216955 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @01:54PM (#55405173) Journal

    I was going though some of the rules and guidelines on american flights(I can't remember if it was FAA or other) because I was carrying some hobby camera equipment(*). And it stated that the batteries were not allowed in checked. So I was puzzled when I heard about the ban on laptops in carry-on.

    (*) I did the stupid thing and asking at checkin about a controller for a camera slider/dolly I had in my luggage that had 8 regular AA batteries and I had to open my luggage to uncover it at put it in carry-on. And some of my rechargeable battery banks just about reached the maximum allow capacity.

    • Aren't they already?

      No.

      https://www.tsa.gov/travel/sec... [tsa.gov]

      See page 21 -- that stupid TSA website sucks.

      I

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @03:47PM (#55406023) Homepage

      And it stated that the batteries were not allowed in checked.

      Loose Li-Ion batteries aren't allowed in checked luggage, but since laptop batteries are attached and below 100Wh they're okay.

      A Li-Ion battery cannot be transported in the hold unless attached to a camera or the equipment it is intended to power. The attached battery must not exceed 100Wh in capacity. Spare Li-Ion batteries must be transported in your carry-on luggage. An individual may take on-board, in carry-on luggage, an unspecified number of Li-Ion batteries that have capacities of 100Wh or less (as the operator and state variations allow). Li-Ion batteries that have capacities greater than 100Wh, but less than 160Wh, are restricted to 2 items per person, in carry-on luggage. For example, a crew of 3 people can share the allowance between them and take a total 6 batteries (2 each) in this capacity range. Li-Ion batteries that have capacities greater than 160Wh are forbidden from civil aircraft, unless a state exemption has been obtained (i.e. CAA/FAA operator).

      Now 100Wh [ytimg.com] is for big cinema rigs and such, a normal DSLR battery is maybe 10-15Wh. I suppose they could be a dick if you have a spare or two but really it would just be to be dicks.

      • Good info. I would say it doesn't seem like much of a stretch for laptop batteries to become required to carry-on. Looking around it appears that just lowering that 100Wh limit for attached checked batteries to 50Wh would cause some of the bigger ones to be required to be carried on.
        • Looking around it appears that just lowering that 100Wh limit for attached checked batteries to 50Wh would cause some of the bigger ones to be required to be carried on.

          It's been a while since I needed to shop for a laptop battery. And you reminded me that it's been several weeks since I ran mine down - in progress now. It's just 28Wh. Quite a stretch to a 50 or 100Wh battery - you'd need one of those not-exactly-portable dual-monitor laptop gaming rigs to push that limit.

      • Yep, read about all those restrictions. Makes air travel impossible in some situations.

        Have been contemplating building an emergency communications portable radio station. Doing it with a relatively high power radio, like 100 watts, requires a big battery that is also a lightweight battery. The only thing that looks to fill that bill is a lithium battery, but since it would be something _I_ built rather than something manufactured, it would be deemed "loose" batteries as well as being about 10X over

    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      Really screwed if you fly through these eight countries:
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new... [telegraph.co.uk]

    • And it stated that the batteries were not allowed in checked. So I was puzzled when I heard about the ban on laptops in carry-on.

      Loose batteries aren't allowed to be checked and must be brought in carry-on due to the short circuit risk they present. Batteries inside devices, even large ones are fine.

  • It is important to be able to travel with your cell phone and laptop on either checked or carry-on luggage as you need; these are somewhat indispensable items for many.

    The concept of "banning them " from modes of travel is patently absurd and unacceptable.

    If the risk is too high by some measure (I seriously doubt it, considering people have successfully been flying with laptops for 20 years), then find ways of mitigating it or allowing people to bring their laptops without causing an undue or excessive b

    • It is important to be able to travel with your cell phone and laptop on either checked or carry-on luggage as you need

      It is also important that the plane does not catch fire mid-flight. As an air passenger I tend to rate this higher in importance than your preference to put a laptop in a checked bag. You can still take a laptop with you in carry-on so it's no different from something like a pen-knife which you can only take in checked luggage and not in a carry-on.

      • If I don't have a phone and laptop on my destination, the aircraft might as well never have taken off. I don't need to take useless unproductive trips. I'd be better off taking a 1 week trip by train or ship than a 8 hour trip by plane if it means I can accomplish something at my destination. It's not so much a matter of preference as it is a condition for travel.

        • Some people need these devices when they arrive. There was a story of band trying to tour the mid-East with their gear, which included iPads and laptops that drive their instruments and display their sheet music. Laptop/tablet ban put a stop to all that.

          • There was a story of band trying to tour the mid-East with their gear, which included iPads and laptops that drive their instruments and display their sheet music.

            What kind of "band" on tour doesn't have their set list completely memorized?

            • by Langalf ( 557561 )
              What part of "drive their instruments" did you not understand? Even if they knew all their songs without sheet music, if they need computers to run the instruments, and don't have them, their tour is over.
              • What kind of "musicians" need computers to run their instruments? Sounds like they're not actually playing anything themselves, they're just standing there while the computers actually do the work.

                These losers aren't musicians at all.

                • If it's one of the genres I'm suspecting it is, the computer is the instrument--for example, trackers are used a lot in quite a few genres and quite a few excellent ones are FOSS--and a lot of the old sound equipment has been replaced by computers, because it turns out that it's easier to haul around a computer than, say, a traditional soundboard which is about the size and sometimes also the weight of a large, solid couch.

                  If you're also trying to get your next album ready without having to cut into your to

        • If I don't have a phone and laptop on my destination, the aircraft might as well never have taken off.

          So put them in your cabin baggage. It's safer AND you are far more likely to have them when you get there since checked bags don't always arrive on time. They are only wanting to ban laptops in checked baggage.

    • I have to question how many laptop fires have there been and how many have caused the loss of an entire aircraft. If this was an issue I'm sure it wold have been all over the news and everyone would already be talking about how to make laptops safe.

      • I have to question how many laptop fires have there been and how many have caused the loss of an entire aircraft. If this was an issue I'm sure it wold have been all over the news and everyone would already be talking about how to make laptops safe.

        Well, if you google 'laptop fire' you can see they do happen. We don't want to wait till a plane goes down because of one to address the risk. It is a low probability, but a very real one. It makes sense to not put them in checked baggage where a fire cannot be noticed and dealt with quickly, whereas in the cabin it can be.

        • If they are turned off and checked in baggage then the chance of them catching fire is minimal, fires usually occur while they are being charged.

          • No,
            fires occur when you close your laptop, but it fails to go into sleep mode, for some reason it does calculations, it is in a protective coverage, and you insisted to put it into a suitcase with cloth above and below it, for protection.

            That is the main reason for overheating ... if it is getting hot enough to start a fire is another issue.

            • No, fires occur when you close your laptop, but it fails to go into sleep mode, for some reason it does calculations, it is in a protective coverage, and you insisted to put it into a suitcase with cloth above and below it, for protection.

              That is the main reason for overheating ... if it is getting hot enough to start a fire is another issue.

              So, you are saying that is the ONLY way fires start with laptops? I'm not sure how you can be so sure. But, with that said, a not fully latched laptop could open and close with luggage movement.

              • It is not the question of "full latched".

                I had it often enough that a "full latched" laptop did not get into sleep mode.

                No, it is not my only idea that fires start like this, but the parent had the opinion it only can start while charging.

                • understood. I misread your post.
                • Sure if you just closed the lid and stick it in a laptop bag in your suitcase but you shouldn't be putting a running laptop in a bag, asleep or not. This is how you damage a laptop.

                  I said usually and not only when charging. It is far more likely that a laptop fire will start when a laptop is powered on and charging. Which is why I said "If they are turned off and checked in baggage then the chance of them catching fire is minimal"

                  • I never switch off my laptops, that is why I have laptops. On the other hand if I'm forced to use a windows laptop it does not seem to be a difference if it boots up wakes up, takes the same absurd amount of time.

                    • I would rather not bust my laptop open every couple weeks to clean the processor and replace the thermal paste just so I could keep it running while it's in the laptop bag and I'm traveling. I haven't really had an issue with boots times on windows since win 10 and SSD.

                    • Well,
                      I keep my laptop sleeping, not running ...

                      How ever the sleeping can fail, so you have to check beforee you store it if it is really sleeping.

                      I doubt there is any need ever to fiddle with thermal paste, unless like in the early 15" first Intel MacBook Pros, where they had a manufacturer fault on the main boards.

            • I may have misread you post. I don't disagree, just didn't want eliminate other possibilities
      • Seems like making the decision before hundreds of people die is probably better. Even the article summary mentions that they have done actual research to base the recommendations on.
    • ... find ways of mitigating it or allowing people to bring their laptops without causing an undue or excessive burden for travelers --- even if that means the laptop has to be packed in a special kind of hardened bag and pressurized with an inert gas at the luggage station.

      Or, they could just reserve planes only for those carrying laptops, and those passengers sign a risk waiver. Any empty seats on those flights might be occupied by non-laptop-carriers who also sign a waiver. More administrative overhead to be sure, but I suspect there would be very few people who would refuse to take a flight with a cargo hold full of laptops if it meant getting to their destination sooner and/or cheaper.

      This strikes me as a tempest in a teapot - either that, or there's some nefarious ulteri

  • by DatbeDank ( 4580343 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @01:56PM (#55405191)

    Lithium-Ion batteries are little bombs with the amount of energy they store. As XKCD pointed out, they're trivially easy to explode.

    The only logically safe course of action is to ban all devices containing lithium-ion batteries from flights.

    I knew we were going to reach this point where our desire for safety was going to conflict with our vast desire to be entertained when contained in a tin can flying through the sky!

    So what's it going to be slashdotters? Fly entertained with the risk of being engulfed in a Lithium-Ion fire or be bored senseless and go back to the days of flying with a book?

    I choose entertained, screw going back to the days of flying without electronics!

    • Worst case, I still have my old Nintendo Game Boy in a box in my basement, and I could use that for entertainment on airplanes like I did 25 years ago. It uses very safe alkaline AA batteries. (I even have an lighted frame accessory so that I can make out some of the contents on its indiscernible display.)

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @02:16PM (#55405349) Journal

      The only logically safe course of action is to ban all devices containing lithium-ion batteries from flights.

      Including the plane [wikipedia.org] itself?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Lithium batteries don't really explode in the way a typical bomb does. They combust, the danger is that they can start a fire rather than cause damage with explosive force.

      So it seems like the answer would be fire suppression in the cabin, rather than a ban, but I suppose if the fire starts in a bag in an overhead locker it might get out of hand before it can be contained manually.

      In any case I doubt there will be a ban because everyone has a phone and many business passengers use laptops in the flight. It

      • Lithium batteries don't really explode in the way a typical bomb does. They combust,
        Uh, Oh! Do you know how a Panzerfaust works, or basically any anti tank weapon? The exact same thing happens if a lith ion battery "explodes". It creates a one yard long flame of super heated metal ions that burn through everything.

        This is a simple one from a very small cell phone battery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

        This one is "exploding" due to overcharging: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

        You most definitely don't

        • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

          Also lithium fires can't be put out with water - it just makes them even worse. So the only fire suppression system in a plane that would work on them (other than a bucket of sand) would also suffocate the passengers.

          • The amount of lithium in lithium batteries is extremely tiny. Not enough for that to be an issue.

          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Friday October 20, 2017 @04:55PM (#55406459)

            Also lithium fires can't be put out with water - it just makes them even worse. So the only fire suppression system in a plane that would work on them (other than a bucket of sand) would also suffocate the passengers.

            Nope, not even starving the flame of oxygen works.

            The problem is not just one cell venting (with flame). The deal is that reaction generates so much heat that it causes other cells to vent as well to become a runaway reaction. This brought down a UPS plane in 2001 when one battery vented and caused the rest of the batteries to vent as well from the heat . The fire suppression system even had a low pressure option - it vents the cargo hold outside, removing the oxygen. It iddn't put it out.

            Incidentally, water helps only because it cools the cells back down - if you can keep the cells from heating up, you're fine.

            • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

              "Incidentally, water helps only because it cools the cells back down - if you can keep the cells from heating up, you're fine"

              Rubbish. Water and lithium react violently (check out plenty of youtube videos showing this). You might as well chuck petrol on it.

        • The take home message from your video is that if someone dedicates the entire weight limit of his carry on allowance to only lithium batteries and then sets it all off in one go, it may burn one or two people and the plane would otherwise land just fine.

          An acceptable risk all around.

          • Or it burns a hole into the hull and kills every one.

            Which part of: 'it burns like a bazooka charge' did you miss?

            Lucky you are not working in risk assesment ....

            • Or it burns a hole into the hull and kills every one.

              Okay, too many action movies for you. I think it's time you went to bed.

              • No, you should watch the videos again, I posted, or google yourself or read some wikipeedia.
                But it is up to you to underestimate a flame created by burning metals, perhaps google the term 'termite'.

                What do you think why it is already forbidden to carry lith ion batteries in cargo? Because the flight companies consist of idiots?

                • Watching a few videos of something that burns and doesn't explode doesn't change anything. I could watch them all day and not feel at risk because, and I can't stress this enough, really I can't, and it doesn't matter how many James Bond films you see, and it doesn't matter how many times you incorrectly use the word bazooka: I feel no risk because burning a hole in the fuselage with thermite or your mythical entire briefcase full of lithium batteries which aren't allowed on the plane anyway WOULD NOT KILL

  • Who the hell checks their laptops anyway? Maybe if it were in a military grade ruggedized container.

    • I do. I put the laptop in it's bag and throw that inside my large suitcase along with all my clothes. Never been a problem on SWA. Brings the weight up a bit, but so far that hasn't been an issue on 2 or 3 day work trips.
    • Re:Umm OK (Score:5, Interesting)

      by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @03:23PM (#55405875) Homepage Journal

      I pack my laptop in the middle of my suitcase. I've never had any damage. And in some cases I'm required to check my laptop as baggage and am not allowed to carry it in cabin.

      Examples include:
      * if my laptop is fully discharged and I cannot boot it for the TSA agent.
      * if I am travel to a country where I cannot bring a laptop in cabin for security/safety reasons.
      * if the carry on is limited and I am forced to check my carry on at the gate. if given the choice between my laptop bag and my medication, I'm going to check my laptop.

      certainly all the rules and requirements can be adjusted to somehow let us travel with laptops. but every day it seems like the processes are changed and end up being more convoluted and harder for travelers to comply with.

    • by Kazymyr ( 190114 )

      Not necessarily military-grade. Those are heavy and expensive. I put my laptop in the luggage in a Pelican hard case. It's not too heavy (about 3 pounds) and it's stiff enough that I can stand on top of it without it deforming. That's good enough for me. Has foam padding inside. Never had a problem with a laptop that was inside that case.

  • Is this a thing? I thought we all quit doing this years ago because it was a guaranteed way to get your laptop stolen.
    • In some cases, you have no choice anymore.

      Airfare fees are such that everyone brings their stuff as carry-on, so there no longer room for your laptop bag if you're at the end of the line and traveling economy. Plus, because of some rumored terrorist plots, some laptops have already been banned as carry-ons for flights going to and coming back from Muslim countries (except for a couple of countries that have big enough lobbying budgets to influence the US).

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @02:18PM (#55405371) Homepage

    Seriously, they're very powerful and want to setup kiosks at every Jetway.

    Boarding, return the battery, departing rent a battery.

    They're a hegemony, I tells ya, a HEGEMONY.

  • by Taelron ( 1046946 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @02:48PM (#55405585)
    Just a couple of months ago wasn't the TSA trying to ban laptops in the cabins of aircraft from different countries? And discussing pushing it to all flights? Sure it wasn't renewed but shows where they want to go So they don't want it in the cabin and now you cant check it... Really trying hard to kill business travel.
  • If this goes through, I would expect it would apply to anything that has a battery within it of X size or capacity.

    Phones, tablets, photo gear, etc. etc.

    The only reason anyone checks a laptop is because the flight crew demands it due to lack of space in the passenger cabin. Be curious how that will play out if the rules state you can't check it at all.

  • Alright, so here's the elephant in the room. It's so they can take your laptop and make you put the password in for them.
    • And you'll do it with a smile if you want to travel. Nobody says you have an inalienable right to travel by aircraft.

  • by kiehlster ( 844523 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @03:29PM (#55405919) Homepage
    ... are in our near future. I don't know why bans are the solution when we have fire containment bags on the markets. Why hasn't TSA decided to certify these things and require passengers to store their laptops in such bags? And if they don't have one, just sell them at the checkpoint for a premium? I'd rather have this than have the peace of mind of my laptop or tablet vanishing into oblivion in the checked luggage system.
  • Laptops and lithium batteries are already banned from checked baggage in all flight originating from Japan (and probably other places as well) -- I ran into this a couple of months ago flying back from Japan. There are prominent signs reminding you to ensure that all laptops be in carryon bags only, and all checked baggage is screened (via xray machine) for laptops and spare batteries before being checked.
  • Then the airlines are going to lose a horrible amount of business. There's no way in hell I'm letting my personal laptop or work laptop out of my possession during travel. I will simply drive (I have to get a rental when I get to the location anyway) or I will take an alternate mode of transportation such as a bus or train. It may take a little longer, and will likely make my employer unhappy, but have to draw the line somewhere.

  • by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Friday October 20, 2017 @09:52PM (#55407693) Homepage

    Lithium ion batteries store a LOT of energy, and it's not that hard to get them to ignite, at which point they burn VERY hot. Plenty of YouTube videos with lithium ion battery fires. Go watch some before attempting to explain how safe they are on an airliner.

    A bunch of bad people could carry laptops on the same flight, and short out the battery packs with a paper clip. Not very difficult with most batteries. Even Apple products could be modded to make the batteries vulnerable.

    Checked baggage or carry-on, lithium ion batteries are a problem either way. A laptop could serve as it's own timer, with a hardware mod to close a relay and short out the batteries while the damn thing sits in the cargo hold. As an added bonus, nobody can get in while the plane is in flight. Sure, there is a fire suppression system, but I wouldn't bet on it because such fires are difficult to extinguish.

  • Isn't there also a ban on electronics in the cabin? So no laptop in carry-on or in checked baggage means no laptop at all. I guess the solution is to FedEx your stuff overnight and hope that it shows up for the business meeting. Too bad AmTrak trains are so slow and infrequent.

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