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Power Transportation

Laptop Fires On Airplanes 560

Posted by kdawson
from the but-the-lithium-makes-the-voices-go-away dept.
The risk posed by lithium batteries on airplanes is not exactly new news to this community; but the issue is starting to get wider exposure. Reader Maximum Prophet points out that as usual xkcd gets it right, and sends in an NY Times article calling the batteries a fire risk that clears security. "More than half of the 22 battery fires in the cabin of passenger planes since 1999 have been in the last three years. One air safety expert suggested that these devices might be 'the last unrestricted fire hazard' people can bring on airplanes."
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Laptop Fires On Airplanes

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  • by Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:01PM (#29886429)
    The backlash of removing batteries would outweigh the safety benefit.

    Knowing the airlines, they could turn this into some type of profit scheme. Make users store batteries in suitcase, make users bring special plane chargers/buy one ($50) and charge a usage fee ($50)
  • by ircmaxell (1117387) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:03PM (#29886479) Homepage
    Actually, putting it in checked luggage would be worse (in fact, most airlines ban batteries from checked luggage already)... If they did catch fire, by the time passengers/crew realized it (from alarms, etc), the fire would be significantly more advanced than if it happened in cabin...
  • by danaris (525051) <danaris AT mac DOT com> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:06PM (#29886531) Homepage

    If they start looking into this, they might decide to not only ban laptops, but everything else that might have a lithium battery...

    Of course, it might be that banning nearly everything electronic from the cabins is just the kind of ridiculousness we need to get a backlash against all this security theater [wikipedia.org], and get the people in charge to actually take some time to come up with reasonable restrictions on what we can bring on an airplane.

    ...The other alternative seems to be to go all the way in the other direction: all our luggage gets checked into an ultra-secure compartment, and we have to turn in our clothes at the security checkpoint and be issued uniform form-fitting clothes that can't be used to conceal anything in.

    Dan Aris

  • Re:Liquids on planes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Abstrackt (609015) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:54PM (#29887247)

    Here in Canada most, if not all, of the airports have signs at security that basically say "you don't have to get searched if you don't want to, but you're not getting on the plane without getting searched". You're more than welcome to refuse a search, politely or otherwise, but security can and will prevent you from moving further into the terminal if you exercise that right. The fact that people play along with the security theater isn't a sign of cowardice so much as the fact that they just want to get it over with and get on the damn plane.

    While I think the liquid ban thing and taking off my orthopedic shoes is a waste of time and money it doesn't mean I'm going to try making a statement about it at airport security. When they quiz me on my solid deodorant, solid shampoo, solid soap, and powdered toothpaste (just add water) I politely inform them I can't bring liquids on the plane and I don't want to pack a suitcase for my toiletries or buy them when I land so this is my compromise. I've never had a problem with that answer in any airport (including several in the US).

  • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:59PM (#29887317)

    I wonder if TSA agents are trained to actually take out and read the packaging/label of all batteries they come across as they rifle through your belongings.

    Certainly. They're trained to take [gadling.com] everything battery operated.

  • Re:Problem? Really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:05PM (#29887419)

    And how do you remove a MacBook battery?

  • Re:Liquids on planes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:27PM (#29887701)

    Flying may not be a human right, but it is a one of the major boons of living in the modern world, and if you can meet the ticket price, you should be able to fly. Making large parts of society contingent on surrendering human rights is tantamount to taking those rights away.

    Also, I see your argument all the time. It's a cop-out. I don't think a world in which large companies can arbitrarily refuse to provide service is the best of all possible worlds. Once a company, or a set of companies, becomes an integral part of our social fabric, it should be placed under a different, more stringent set of rules that ensure the greatest benefit for all.

  • Re:Liquids on planes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Abstrackt (609015) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:47PM (#29887985)

    I think the current level of security is ridiculous and barely grounded in reality but I also think it makes sense that airlines want to know what people are bringing on their planes seeing as they're responsible for the lives of everyone on board.

    In a perfect world we wouldn't need any security at airports but history has proven that it is necessary. There needs to be a compromise between security that's too lax (who needs a box cutter in the cabin anyway?) and security that's too tight and driven by fear ("I'm sorry sir, but that bottle of water might cause an action movie explosion"); I think letting someone have a quick peek in my backpack is a decent compromise.

  • Re:Liquids on planes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jgeada (1304637) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:08PM (#29888303)
    I do not believe that the statement "private companies aren't required to make any service available to anyone they don't want to" is quite correct. Once a product is on the market you do have to sell it to everyone on equal terms. You are not allowed to discriminate against potential clients on the base of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs/non-beliefs, political affiliations etc. Just try to run a bus service that requires people of different races to sit in different sections of the bus to see what I mean. Just being a corporation does not give you the rights to ignore the law.
  • Re:Liquids on planes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by conspirator57 (1123519) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:21PM (#29888483)

    while i agree with you...

    this is settled case law.

    http://www.papersplease.org/wp/ [papersplease.org]

    yes, i know it's to do with id rather than searches, but the government is of one opinion in all of this.

    "you have other choices on how to travel. we don't acknowledge any timeliness issues."

  • nothing to see here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TRRosen (720617) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @06:30PM (#29890461)

    That works out to a bit over 3 "battery" fires per year (not just laptops but all batteries) out of more than 10 million flights in the us alone,
    That takes it down to statistical anomaly area. and the number of injuries? None?..two? basically minor burns for the person holding the device at the time. Batteries don't just explode you have too short them with a solid piece of copper to get those kinds of reaction (don't bother sending links to people purposely shorting RC batteries that would never happen in a consumer electronic device) at best they go poof. Scary as shit if it happens in your lap but Hot coffee is probably a bigger threat to air safety.

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