It looks like we may not be out of the woods just yet when it comes to a potential U.S. laptop travel bans.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Fox News that he might consider banning laptops entirely from being checked in as carry-on luggage on ALL outgoing and incoming U.S. commercial flights. When asked about the details behind it, he said:
Well, there’s a real threat. Numerous threats against aviation, that’s really the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a U.S. carrier, particularly if it’s full of mostly U.S. folks, people. It’s real. You know that I implemented I think on the 21st of March a restriction on large electronic devices in the cabins from ten points of origin.
When asked about a potential time frame for this ban, he went on to say:
We’re still following the intelligence. The very, very good news is that we are working incredibly close with friends and partners around the world. We’re going to, and in the process of defining this, but we are going to raise the bar for generally speaking aviation security much higher than it is now.
So – and there’s new technologies down the road, not too far down the road that we will rely on. But it is a real sophisticated threat and I will reserve that decision until we see where it’s going.
The White House has already banned laptops from being brought on as carry-on luggage from eight different countries (spread across the middle east and north Africa), saying that intelligence led them to believe that terrorists could transform these devices into bombs.
Various airline bodies have advised that such a move could be devastating to the airline industry on the whole. The biggest concern would be increased amounts of lithium-ion batteries being stored in the cargo hold, which could create an additional safety threat, possibly requiring a rework of how safety systems work on the aircraft.
At least if the laptop batteries started to combust in-cabin, the flight crew could devise some way to quick prevent the fire from burning out of control.
Cargo holds do have fire suppression systems, but the sensors would have to be functional 100% of the time, as a failed warning could result in the plane quickly catching fire because of how fast and hot lithium ion fires tend to burn when they explode.