Can the laptop ban compromise flight safety over the Atlantic?

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), responsible for aviation safety in 32 countries, expresses concern with the electronics ban on trans-Atlantic flights. According to a statement from the agency, lithium batteries – considered as dangerous goods – pose a risk of accidental fire, which would be even more difficult to contain if the electronic device is in the cargo section.

“Passengers and crews safety is our highest priority. Spontaneous ignition or thermal runaway of Lithium batteries present safety risks which need to be taken into account. We must take all precautions to make sure that mitigating one risk does not lead to another risk” says Patrick Ky, EASA’s Executive Director.

The European Cockpit Association, representing 38,000 pilots from 37 European states, is also seriously concerned about the potential negative safety implications of the electronics ban, as well as about additional security risks that result from it. The organization called for an effective and comprehensive security and safety risk assessment to ensure the ban does not create safety and security threats greater than the one it seeks to prevent.

“With current airplane cargo hold fire suppression systems, it might prove to be impossible to extinguish a lithium battery fire in the cargo hold, especially when the batteries are stored together,” ECA’s statement says.

It’s not the first time lithium batteries are in the spotlight. In fact, in 2015, the US Federal Aviation Administration, urged airlines to do the exact opposite of what the new ban enforces – not letting travelers pack extra batteries in their carry-on bags.

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