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Power Transportation

Laptop Fires On Airplanes 560

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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  • Liquids on planes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_one(2) ( 1117139 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @01:58PM (#29886383)

    I hope that if they listen to Randall about the dangers of laptop batteries that they at least listens to his point about the relative dangers of liquids as well.

    • by spydabyte ( 1032538 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:03PM (#29886489)
      I think the point of his argument is they don't listen. That by proving something wrong with their system doesn't fix their system, it gets you arrested (or without batteries to use a laptop on airlines).

      Sucks for those new mac owners, without removable batteries.
      • by Kryptonian Jor-El ( 970056 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:10PM (#29886589)
        You're Right, they don't listen. But it's not their job to listen. You don't walk into a store and tell the janitor what products that the store should stock.

        These security agents are paid $14/hr, and probably don't have any connection to the TSA rulemakers. Whether the security guards can honestly tell a security suggestion from a security threat, I do not know, but I'd like to think they have to treat them all with caution.
        • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:23PM (#29886755) Journal

          These security agents are paid $14/hr, and probably don't have any connection to the TSA rulemakers.

          Any security focused organization that doesn't listen to its people on the ground is failing at its mission.
          Not to mention that an inability to provide feedback is a good way to kill moral in an organization.

          • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:32PM (#29886885) Journal

            Also, they don't actually have any constitutional authority to search you (something that they didn't need when it was just a private company and terms of sale).

            Not that that stops them. I've a good mind to say, "no thank you" next time I travel and they ask to search something. Or say, "I've got a pass." and hand them a copy of the constitution.

            Except that I'm a coward, and I usually have somewhere to be when I travel, so I don't rock the boat. Mostly the coward thing, though. I don't need to justify my cowardice. I'm not proud of it either, but I don't see anyone behaving any less cowardly than myself either.

            • by maharb ( 1534501 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:54PM (#29887235)

              They have the right to search you just as much as you have a right to be on that plane(none at all). If you chose to not be searched then you chose to not get on the plane, its that simple. I don't like the searching policies as they currently stand as much as you but I think its a bit outrageous to claim you should be able to walk on the plane without being screened in any way.

              • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:39PM (#29887867)

                The TSA and their guidelines are no longer private by any means. They are thoroughly up the government's ass.

                The constitution says ol' Uncle Sam can't perform unreasonable searches or seizures without a warrant, and that to issue a warrant they need probable cause. Probable cause must be supported by things that have happened or someone testifies has happened (see oath or affirmation) regarding the specific person. FUD about terrorism does not count, no matter how real the threat is.

                Now before you try to dodge simple facts with bullshit about no one forcing you to board a plane...

                1 - Commercial air travel is the only method of air travel available to 99.999% of people. Going by boat, by car, or on foot will often result in similar infringements upon your rights. Hell, you don't even have to be crossing a national or even state border to be subjected to this shit. Just drive anywhere near the US border and your rights are fucking GONE in the interest of "national security".

                2 - Something something Pursuit of Happiness something something. Seems to me the restrictions and "security" put in place constitute significant barriers to a person's basic freedom of movement if they wish to avoid said searches. Well of course they do - that's the goal. Keep you in your densely packed urban center, try to squash "suburban sprawl", and in general, exercise as much control over you as possible.

                3 - Get up to the security checkpoint at an airport, ticket in hand. When you're next in line to go through the various scanners, give a wave to the friendly TSA employee, put your shoes back on, grab your stuff, turn around, and leave. Explain that you decided you did not want to be searched today. You'll be free to leave, right?

                The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

                If 99% of planes got hijacked and crashed, it would still be unconstitutional.

            • 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 QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:01PM (#29887357)

                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".

                Making basic parts of modern society contingent upon our choosing to waive our natural rights is no choice at all. Doing that is tantamount to infringing those rights. How is that any different from "you may criticize the government, but if you do, you'll never fly again" or "sure, you can can wear that head scarf, but you're not getting on that plane with it in"?

                • by Carik ( 205890 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:17PM (#29887581)

                  The key here is that flying isn't a basic human right. Those airplanes are privately owned, and the people who own them can make any rules they want about who can ride. If they want to insist that only people with purple hair can fly, that's their perogative. If they want to insist that no-one more than eighteen inches tall can fly, they're allowed to do so. If they want to insist that people submit to a ridiculous, ineffective security screening before flying, they can.

                  All three rules are equally silly, and all three rules are equally legitimate. If you don't like the rules, you can find a different way to travel. If they make compliance difficult and annoying enough, many people will, and then the airlines will go under. Until then, you're stuck with it.

                  (And yes, there's a lot of pressure from the government for them to run this level of security, but if you believe the airlines don't have enough lobbying power to fight back, you're insufficiently cynical.)

                  • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by Abstrackt ( 609015 )

                      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

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by pilgrim23 ( 716938 )
                      3 generations of people rode airplanes without needing to be subjected to just short of anal probe (coming soon) and we got on fine. Terrorism was as much a threat in 1950 in 1960 in 1970 as it is today yet in those times we walked right up to the plane without hassle. Its all about people control. it has zero to do with your protection. Just consider it as rude and don't fly. seems pretty simple to me
                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by jgeada ( 1304637 )
                      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
                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by lennier ( 44736 )

                      "The Bill of Rights only guarantees the rights of the People against the Government. There are seperate laws covering what companies may and may not do"

                      And that's why Outsourcing and Public/Private Partnerships are such wonderful, wonderful things.

                      "It wasn't me - my Global Executive Human Data Resources Acquisition Outcomes Scalable Solution Deliverance Provider did it! That naughty, naughty private company! O how I shall fire them when my office learns of their scallywag exploits, see if I don't! O what a

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              >>>"No thank you" next time I travel and they ask to search

              Good luck with that. The guy in this audio recording tried the same tactic, first with the TSA and then some cops, when they demanded to search his cash box ("Where'd you get all this money?"). They had no constitutional warrant, but still they said they can stop Him from entering the airplane. Laws don't matter when the uniformed men on the street can detain you at will.

              10-minute version (unedited) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEJp [youtube.com]

              • by Abreu ( 173023 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:38PM (#29887851)

                Nope, he's acting like a child.

                If an amusement park does not want to allow you on a ride because you are taller than 5ft, it is their right to deny you, even if you just know the ride can support your height and weight without problems.

                The amusement park ride, and the airplane, are privately owned and they can deny you access for whatever reason, even if you don't like it.

                (or maybe I should have used a car analogy)

        • You're taking the comic literally. It happens for higher ups that are suppose to listen and care as well. It's a rant about government and the entire process in general.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Tying in a logical and reasonable statement with government policy should be immeidately +5 funny and not insightful/informative.

    • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:39PM (#29886981)

      But banning liquids is a good thing.. Nobody has blown up a plane with a baby bottle since the law went into effect.

      It works as good as my Cougar repelling rock in my office. I haven't seen a cougar in the office since I got it.

      Sadly, sarcasm is about all I got left anymore...

    • by Col. Klink (retired) ( 11632 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:51PM (#29887195)

      I just assumed they were seizing liquids so that you are forced to overpay for the same thing on the other side of the gate.

  • 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)
    • unilkely (Score:3, Insightful)

      make users bring special plane chargers/buy one ($50) and charge a usage fee ($50)

      A large number of planes in service today (at least for domestic flights within the US) aren't wired for electrical service to passenger seats. The airlines would lose more money in lost customers than they would make in revenue after considering what it would cost to add electrical service to the currently unwired planes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Well, they wouldn't really. The airlines don't make the rules; the TSA would be the ones to outlaw batteries. The airlines would just take advantage of the situation (like how "complementary" half cans of coke were no longer free once liquids were banned).

        People devoted to certain airlines wouldn't switch because of this if they're all doing it. And remember, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't.
        • Re:unilkely (Score:4, Insightful)

          by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:34PM (#29886913) Homepage Journal

          The airlines don't make the rules; the TSA would be the ones to outlaw batteries

          That statement seems to hinge on the assumption that the TSA is free to take action without concern of the airline industry. The airline industry pays for the security theater that we are exposed to at the airports; if there were no airlines there would be no TSA.

          (like how "complementary" half cans of coke were no longer free once liquids were banned).

          I don't know what airline you are flying; I still get soda and pretzels for free on the flights I'm on; and they are all steerage (or as they say, "economy") class flights.

    • Battery Vending machines at every luggage carousel, featuring Sony, Dell, HP, etc etc. All charged and waiting for your $50. Just don't rock the machine if your battery gets stuck.
    • by FauxReal ( 653820 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:12PM (#29886611) Homepage
      I booked a flight on Alaska Airlines today and decided to actually read their restrictions on baggage and I saw this [alaskaair.com].

      As of January 1, 2008, customers may no longer pack spare lithium batteries of any kind in checked baggage. Customers can carry spare lithium batteries for devices such as laptops, cell phones and cameras, but they must be packed in their carry-on baggage with the terminals covered/insulated. Customers may check bags that contain lithium batteries only if they are installed in the electronic devices. Damaged batteries will not be accepted for transport. For important details regarding the safe transportation of batteries/battery-powered devices while flying, please visit http://safetravel.dot.gov/ [dot.gov].

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by metlin ( 258108 )

        Well, I usually carry a spare battery and an additional laptop when I travel, and so far I've not had any problems whatosever.

        The times I've had any problems, I've told them that I travel a lot and spend a lot of time flying (or stranded) and joke about it (which is true).

        I've never really tried checking anything in, though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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.

    • Considering all the different types of ends and Voltages that laptops use, it'll either be impractical to carry them all, or for those "Universal Adapters", quite possible another fire hazard waiting to happen.

  • by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:01PM (#29886431)
    Could you imagine what would happen if you told all the business people that they had to either put thier (soon to be broken) laptop in checked luggage or couldn't board the plane.

    It's one thing to get felt up by security, but you will never pry a laptop or blackberry from a business person unless thier hands are cold and dead.
    • 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...
      • a solution to the problem could be to set up a system to remove Oxygen from these areas to prevent fires liek some airlines are trying to do with heir fuel tanks. Remove the Oxygen so there isn't an oxidizer to allow fires to continue and spread.

    • by Ceiynt ( 993620 )
      They banned fingernail clippers, why not batteries?

      I'd very upset, because they would not stop at laptop batteries, but it would be a blanket ban on ALL batteries; cellphone, Nintendo DS, PSP, the little bop bop games like game and watch.

      It is a government run agency. It will only become a problem when the senator who is chairman of some committee was told he couldn't bring his laptop as carry on, and it gets stolen as a checked item.
      • They banned fingernail clippers, why not batteries?

        That ban has been lifted for some time now. The one of lighters has been as well. Frankly IME I've found butane lighters to have a much better chance of causing an accidental fire than batteries.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by R2.0 ( 532027 )

        "It is a government run agency. It will only become a problem when the senator who is chairman of some committee was told he couldn't bring his laptop as carry on, and it gets stolen as a checked item."

        You have a fundamental misunderstanding of how it works. Said senator would not get the law changed; he would simply make sure that he got a special exception from complying with the law.

        Example - when Ted Kennedy got held up at an airport for his name being on the no-fly list, the system didn't get changed.

    • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:19PM (#29886709) Journal

      Could you imagine what would happen if you told every urbanite that they couldn't bring a bottle of Evian on the plane?
      Could you imagine what would happen if you told ever Mom that she couldn't bring a box of apple juice for her kid?
      Could you imagine what would happen if you told the guy with the fancy cowboy boots or the woman wearing Prada shoes that they have to come off and go through the scanner, and they have to walk through security on the icky floors wearing only socks/stockings?

      Oh, wait, you don't have to. The sheeple just throw the stuff away they can't check, maybe bleat a little, and get baa-aa-aa-ck in line.

      And don't think the problem will be isolated to blackberries and laptops carried by business folk. Helicopter-Soccer Mom and Socially Enabled 12-Year Old have cell phones and laptops, too, and those have Li-Ion batteries. Not to mention Electronic-Dependent Cannot Entertain Him/Herself for an hour Child and their ever-present array of Gaming Devices and/or DVD Players. PhotoAmateur Dad always carries his Digicamera or Camcorder. In fact, I think you'd be amazed at how many people DO NOT carry at least one Li-Ion battery in their carryon or on their person today.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jandrese ( 485 )
        Well, look at the alternative: Adding many days to travel over long distances. Taking the train from New York to LA takes literally days longer than a flight, and I don't know if anybody does business-class transatlantic cruises anymore. I mean if your work tells you "Go to this conference in Copenhagen" and you're in San Fransisco, then you can't exactly tell your boss "Ok, but I need 2 weeks of travel time on either side of the 1 day conference".

        That's why people accept it. There are really no via
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by sjames ( 1099 )

          It's a shame really. If people actually did say I'd rather ride a bicycle there than be dehumanized by airport security the airlines would gang up and demand that the TSA get lost.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Funny, I took off my shoes after 9/11 but before they required it, precisely because my work boots always set off the metal detectors.

        Yeah, but Evian water is just an inconvenience, as I'll buy some when I get there (if I drank bottled water). I'm not dropping the money for a laptop on the other side, especially if I can't bring it back with me. I'm highly unlikely to check my $1800 laptop. For my work, I'd not go on the trip, as me without my laptop has virtually no value. It'd take a half day just

      • by NiteShaed ( 315799 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:15PM (#29888409)

        And don't think the problem will be isolated to blackberries and laptops carried by business folk. Helicopter-Soccer Mom and Socially Enabled 12-Year Old have cell phones and laptops, too, and those have Li-Ion batteries. Not to mention Electronic-Dependent Cannot Entertain Him/Herself for an hour Child and their ever-present array of Gaming Devices and/or DVD Players. PhotoAmateur Dad always carries his Digicamera or Camcorder. In fact, I think you'd be amazed at how many people DO NOT carry at least one Li-Ion battery in their carryon or on their person today.

        Luckily Overly-Impressed-With-Himself-Slashdot-Poster doesn't have any of these problems since there are no direct flights out of his mom's basement.....

  • The seat trays aren't very fire retardant either.
  • Here's a suggestion. Have people remove their batteries while using their laptops on the plane, and instead offer them an electric outlet next to your seat. There -- problem solved.

  • by danaris ( 525051 ) <danaris@[ ].com ['mac' in gap]> 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

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:08PM (#29886567) Homepage Journal

    Headlines; I wish people writing headlines (especially the professionals at places like the Chicago Tribune) would look at what their headlines may be saying.

    Before I read TFS I thoght it was about somebody controlling a Predator with a laptop and making the predator shoot at manned planes. Or something.

    Would it be too much to add "Risk of" before "Laptop Fires On Airplanes"?

    Why is it legal to bring a laptop, far more of a fire hazard than a bic lighter (Bics don't spontaneously combust, nore do they contain as much energy as a laptop battery) but not the lighter? If I was a smoker, after a three hour flight the first thing I'd want to do would be get the hell outside and smoke, and I wouldn't want to waste time buying a lighter.

    The linked comic is good, but it has more to do with security theater. Of course, when it comes to flying, all "security" is nothing BUT theater.

  • I guess I've never actually asked ("Excuse me, but do you have a fire blanket on board?" "Why?), but I'd hope planes carry a fire blanket on them. Maybe it's not so dangerous if you have a quick response?

  • Maybe I'm wrong here, but, isn't the problem with Lithium-ion batteries as a whole? Not just laptop batteries?

    Isn't the fire risk greatest with an overcharged and/or damaged battery? If so, isn't the same risk associated with cell phones, PDA's, etc, etc (although, smaller battery, smaller kaboom/initial fire)?

    And if _any_ Lithium-ion battery is a potential hazard then it wouldn't matter if it was in the cabin or in the hold underneath, it's still a fire/explosion risk. Why would you allow them on a pass

  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:14PM (#29886637) Homepage Journal

    Is this really enough for us to go running scared about yet another airplane hazard? 22 incidents over 10 years is enough to make you think, but when there are hundreds of flights a day I would have to say it's one of the more minor problems that commercial airlines have to face and it seems like it can be solved by properly training crew members how to deal with that sort of fire. You could probably eliminate loads of possible "hazards" off of commercial flights, but not without major inconvenience and making the entire flight experience more miserable than it already is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      +1 (no real mod points). You cannot keep every bad thing from happening in the world. If people would get enough common sense (and balls) to interfere with idiots misbehaving, this world would be a better and safer place.

      Also, its thousands of flights per day; somewhere in the range of 20k-30k.

    • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:12PM (#29888363) Journal

      It's a proven fact that if you eliminate all the people from flights and only fly them over completely unpopulated areas, we'll never have another air fatality again! We must do this now! Not just because we can, but because we are fucking morons.

  • The airline industry makes too much money from business travelers - who are frequently carrying laptops and cell phones onto plates - to be willing to risk jeopardizing their customers. Sure we all know that the airlines screw us individual travelers extra hard when we fly "home" for the holidays, but it is the traveling business sector that keeps the airline industry going. If laptop batteries were banned there would be too much of an uproar, and if people started driving, traveling by train, or teleconf
  • Geeze! Do you want them to ban all batteries?

  • by s31523 ( 926314 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:27PM (#29886825)
    22 fires out of how many millions of flights, of which none resulted in any catastrophe.. I think I am more worried about pilots updating their facebook pages and overshooting their destination airport by 150 miles.
  • by Beau6183 ( 899597 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:32PM (#29886881) Homepage
    I'll check my batteries...when you give me 110v AC 60hz plugs in business class. Of course this wouldn't help the international traveler (where laptops REALLY help pass the time). Most airliners have 115v AC @ 400hz and 28vdc systems... Or perhaps a universal 12v DC plug. This would require laptop manufacturers to standardize power supplies and plug fittings (yay!). Not an immediate fix by any stretch, but probably the safest ("low" voltage) most efficient (no inverter inefficiencies).
  • by swanzilla ( 1458281 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:34PM (#29886911) Homepage
    I have had it with these motherfucking batteries on this motherfucking plane!
  • by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:34PM (#29886917)

    Is SKYNET taking over? Should we be concerned. That's one powerful laptop, if it can fire on an airplane.

  • by quercus.aeternam ( 1174283 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:37PM (#29886947) Homepage

    In related news, Chuck Norris has been banned from all Airlines.

    Officials stated that "... Well, obviously he's a weapon. I mean, would you want to travel with a nuclear weapon your airliner?"

    It remains to be seen how they intend on /stopping/ Chuck Norris from boarding a plane.

    Chuck's only comment on the matter was "why would I need a plane to fly?"

    We agree.

  • by carvalhao ( 774969 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @02:46PM (#29887109) Journal
    The type of customer regular airlines take the most profit from is the business customer. Now, let me see: I can take 4 hours by train to get there and get 4 hours of work in the meantime OR spend 30 minutes going through security check, spend 2 hours on flight with no laptop and work 1 and a half hours when I get there... Hummmmmmmmmmmm... It ain't going to happen.
  • Damn (Score:4, Funny)

    by overcaffein8d ( 1101951 ) <d DOT cohen09 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:04PM (#29887403) Homepage Journal

    i knew there was something wrong with buying a macbook pro with a non-removable battery...

  • by Valdez ( 125966 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @03:45PM (#29887945)

    I can see it already...

    TSA bans the carrying of batteries over a certain size (size is their "see, we thought this through and want to be reasonable" argument). They'll release a special video on YouTube showing exactly how big an explosion they can get from a common laptop battery, and the masses will be in awe that they ever boarded a plane with such a disaster waiting to happen. Mystbusters will also film an episode where they Confirm the "Exploding Laptop Battery" myth... the episode will when a laptop battery they stuffed with 11 pounds of C4, rolled in a coating of thermite, and dipped in ball bearings is used to destroy 4 decomissioned planes somewhere in the middle of the desert.

    This ban will affect laptops, portable game systems, video players, etc... the things you actually use during the flight. You'll have to remove your battery at the ticket counter, and your airline will give it to TSA to put in a special fireproof container for the duration of the flight.

    The airlines come in and say "We're on your side, travellers" and begin to retrofit planes with power outlets at the seats. Ticket prices will increase slightly to help cover this retrofitting on behalf of all travellers.

    Of course, 110v will be "too dangerous" and 12V cigarette lighters will be "too big to fit", even though both would allow you to use things you probably already have in your laptop bag.

    Instead, they fit the planes with 8.23 V outlets which require a special 103, 72, or 45.8 degree angle doohicky (depending on the aircraft manufacturer) with three and a half prongs, which is now the special "Saf-T-FlitePower" plug. You can buy cheap throwaway adapters on each flight for something like $25 (these fall into 23 pieces or short out after 3 uses), and travel accessory companies will start selling slightly better made adapters for $75-$150. Dell will add one to your laptop for $250 if you check the correct box on the 8th tab while building it online, but it's ok, because 67% of the time the box will magically be checked by default (people who didn't mean to get one will wonder WTF this this with 3.5 plugs is when they open their UPS box and it will ride around in their laptop bag unused for 4 years).

    Now, when you're on the plane, your outlet will be disabled, and it will take the flight attendant typing in a special code with your seat number to turn it on. You can buy one of these codes with your ticket, or may get one automatically if you purchase a certain fare class, and the reason for the whole thing is to cover the cost of the retrofitting (nevermind that they already increased the base cost of the ticket to help cover this, and the functionality which allows them to turn off individual outlets quadrupled the cost of the retrofit in the first place). Also, please be patient while the flight attendant enters your code... for safety reasons this has to be done after reaching cruising altitude, so on some flights you may be halfway through the flight before you even get power. (No kidding, if you've ever been on Frontier and gotten a DirecTV access code).

    Once you get off the plane, you'll travel down to the baggage claim, where an avalanche of special fireproof containers will come tumbling down the little ramp. Have fun sorting them out with everyone else on the flight who had to check their battery.

    Of course, those of us who don't check bags (I haven't checked a bag in over 10 years and fly 4 segments a week), will just be screwed, but luckily the SkyMall catalog will start selling a cool new device which allows you to pedal up some power for your laptop while in flight! (Eventually, there will be alternatives, such as The Wind Powered Laptop Energy Device" you attach to the overhead air duct, and The Solar Laptop Power Supply which you suction cup to your window and hope you have an AM flight with a starboard window seat on a flight headed due north.)

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @04:49PM (#29888947)
    ... the occasional laptop going 'Bang!' will keep the Northwest pilots awake.
  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aXis100 ( 690904 )

      Did you not hear/read about the several large battery recalls last year? The batteries were internally shorting on their own (flakes of lithium floating around), no solid piece of copper required.

  • Statistics game (Score:4, Informative)

    by Silicon_Knight ( 66140 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:58PM (#29892803)

    There's two issues here: There's the issue of whether current (or more stringent) security measures can still be beaten by a determined foe, then there's the issue of actual Li-Ion batteries going kaboom. I'll address the later.

    Li-Ion batteries are some of the highest energy-density storage devices available to the general public. As such, they *are* dangerous. I design battery packs for a living, and let me tell you - if not for microprocessors and safety circuits, we wouldn't use Li-Ion batteries.

    They are the only batteries that I know of that can fail dangerously when over-discharged. You start creating internal shorts of lithium whiskers between the cathode and anode, which bypasses any cell safety circuits.
    They go boom very spectacularly if you overcharge them. The model RC heli folks have found this out the hard way, as they tend to run bare cells without protection circuits to save weight. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcwOwf55Rtc).
    They have very low internal resistance, which means in a short circuit, they can release energy very quickly. Every manufacturing engineer at the company I work at have welded calipers to cell tabs, from accidentally touching the wrong stuff while taking measurements.

    For a good cell manufacturer - and I'm talking about the LiShens, Sanyos, Kokams, and Panasonics of the world, the failure rate is 1 in 1 million. It's just a fact of life. The fly-by-night operations in China, responsible for some of the god-awful counterfeit cells out there, god knows what those failure rates are. And the vendors who use these cells tends to not put in the safety features (look up a BQ20Z70 chip, for example) to make a failure more likely.

    The nightmare scenario would be some dude getting some last minute work in at the terminal, plugging the battery in for charging. Then the plane takes off with the laptop in the overhead compartment where the oxygen lines for the safety masks are kept, and the cells let go. Judging from how much energy a single 18650 cell can contain, it could easily do some very serious damage.

    With the prices on Li-Ion dropping and more devices using them, it's no wonder that almost all of the 22 incidents reported occured in the last 3 years. Still a small number considering the amount of airplanes in the air at any given time, but enough for someone to pause and think...

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford