Laptop ban on US flights, without blast containing containers your nightmare coming true
Sure you heard the news where the US government said to be thinking about a laptop ban on all US flights. The laptop ban and the discovery of the plot do create a bomb was even with the Russians. Seems we live in a strange world today where enemies of the past suddenly share top secret information. but that to the side, not my concern. I was thinking and reading on this matter for some time now and thought I shed my view on this.
On March 20th US government imposed a laptop ban for a selected group of countries due to a imminent threat. Of course as we don’t have all the information governments have I can’t judge the ban itself. The ban was also discussed with the EU as the US planned to expand the countries and airports involved. The EU did not agree on the expansion. For now no European countries or airports are on the banned list. If you wonder what airports are impacted and more about the ban look at the site of USAToday which made a nice overview – USAToday.
Today in an interview with Fox News – Interview – secretary of homeland security, John Kelly told that they might broaden it to all flights. That would be a huge mistake I think, let got into this a bit.
The ban is about devices bigger than a cell phone, laptops, tablets, camera’s anything that could hold a battery. With the growth of on-line presence it is not strange that passengers bring more than one device along. People going on a holiday will bring at least a camera and a cell phone with them. Business travellers like myself will likely bring a laptop of some kind with them to do some work on.
It is no wonder that terrorists would try to create a bomb using laptops and other devices. At least two previous crashes were conducted by placing something in luggage, one in 1985 and the last on 1988 over Lockerbie. Both times the bomb was hidden in a electronic device. With the sheer number of devices taken along it is hard to check them all. It is a matter of chance. Bombs in clothes didn’t make it otherwise we’d all be sitting naked in a plane in a couple of years 😉
My thoughts on this
So if batteries are an issue and you don’t want them in electronic devices what good would it do to put them in a container in the body of the plane? What you achieve is that you put a lot of batteries in a small area together creating a bigger issue you can’t reach when things go bad. Its wondering where a device could do most damage, in case of a gun the body of the plane is the best place to store it.. it won’t go shooting by itself. In case of a potential bomb i think the body is a bad place especially with the containers they use these days.
Containers in aircraft are not designed to contain a blast, putting a bomb in a container won’t stop the blast. Containers limiting the blast have been designed but the price of those is higher than normal ones. There are other solutions like a bomb-proof bags to contain the blast. Back in 2015 the university of Sheffield tested a bomb-proof bag that could be pre-fitted in the luggage compartment. A smaller version could be used in the passenger part of the plane in case an explosive was found. I haven’t heard about this design since 2015 and because of the news about the ban I thought about it again. I looked up the original article and found this drawing explaining their thought.
Another issue with the electronics ban is that some of us might still need a laptop when we travel to the US. when you can’t take the laptop into the cabin what are your options? checking in your bag with the luggage is no option, airport personnel handling luggage seem to have throwing competition and I don’t want my laptop be part of this competition. One option would be a different container where they store the electronic and different people handling the devices.
Impact of the proposed ban
The impact of the ban will be bigger that anticipated right now I think. With 450 Million+ business trips last year alone the ban could have an impact. airlines around the world ware worried what will happen to the business passenger numbers but then again no airline wants a disaster either. The reason it may have impact is that a business traveller needs to have access to his or her applications and data. Most travellers use a mobile device of some sort to work offline and connect to SAAS services or company offered services (like VDI) for more functionality. What are option for the business traveller when they are left with a good book and their mobile phone?
Bigger companies will make sure alternative devices are ready at the destination airport, that will work for a part only as the device is not “your own”. An alternative device will only work for people who are already working on a central environment or working with a SAAS solution. many companies still have a mix of central and local making this ban a hell for them. It’s no use for them to travel to the US when they can’t work as intended there.
Of course some will say that they need to check their laptop in with the luggage but most insurances won’t cover the damage to the laptops when you check them in. So it will be interesting to see how that will develop when the ban is in effect… Another reason for the ban is that people tend to make it a sport to get as much in hand luggage as possible to take as much on holiday as possible. This leads to security being unable to thoroughly check the contents without creating hours of waiting lines.
I see many improvements here as hand luggage rules could be applied more strictly, the rules have been loosened too much and everyone sees people bring hand luggage into planes that hardly fit my car. With more strict rules there security checks would be more effective. For phones we had the rule it had to start up and have battery power, sure a rule for this for mobile devices could be thought of. One problem here is that many devices have integrated batteries and i think that is the biggest threat. Perhaps only devices with removable batteries should be allowed so that batteries can be removed. If airlines would – without costs – provide power batteries could even be removed pre-flight.
I wanted to write a little article about the proposed laptop (electronics) ban, I think it got a bit longer than expected. My thought on this is that the ban seems to be a bit drastic to prevent the chance of a bomb attack. I think looking at better options like only allow removable batteries only or special containers for mobile devices are more acceptable. I think the impact on airlines will be massive and it is not that they have money to spent.. it could bring down some airliners, not by a bomb but financial.
Perhaps the conferences we visit provide us with alternative devices to use 😉