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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.

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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

EC HOTLINE RINGS: UK excluded from EC Brussels Meeting to extend the USA inflight laptop and tablet ban throughout Europe and UK!


Turning back the years, no laptops or tablets around when BEA - British European Airways was king.  
UPDATE FRIDAY MAY 19th

Julian Bray writes:  As a result of this aviation security blog, we had a curious somewhat guarded telephone call from someone at the European Commission, it would be wrong to reveal her name, but after some preliminaries, she demanded to know where we obtained our information about the 'top secret' conference call and the meeting to be held later on the Wednesday - the EC /USA bi-lateral meeting to discuss banning laptops on US bound flights. 

I explained that it was fairly well known in aviation media circles and that if it did go ahead, the EC would be the loser, as the knock on effect of multiple delays and the inconvenience to business travellers would either cause them to re-route or in some cases move their operations to a country where these draconian bans are not in force.

The main problem being that most airports are not currently designed for repeated full scale security checks, at several stages, of the departure process and certainly there is little enthusiasm for additional x-ray machines at the gate.

Aircraft would be in danger of missing their slot times and the general knock on effect would be a disaster for all concerned. Happily this view seems to have prevailed at the meeting and the proposal has ben dropped.....but caution, it may well be revived!  JB

Today Wednesday May 17th 2017, needs to be marked down in your old style Filofax or Time System planner paper diary (remember those?)  as the day the free world stepped back to a time, possibly the early 80's, a time when laptop and tablet technology was unknown on board aircraft the Internet still in its infancy and a mobile phone the size of a large brick. If this sounds as if Julian Bray has finally cracked, consider this:

There are new fears of travel chaos and logistical meltdown  if Europe is the next target for a security crackdown. US and European officials are to meet in Brussels later today Wednesday to discuss a possible new ban directed at the taking of laptops, tablets and e-readers such as Kindles into pressurised aircraft passenger cabins on all USA bound flights from Europe.

This draconian ban if it is ratified extends to UK airports. Just consider that presently over 110 flights a day out of London Heathrow alone head for the USA.

This will  - immediately the ban comes into force - cause a major security backlog at airports, as new security checks are introduced, and possibly additional x-ray scanners installed at the departure gate!

Not everyone is happy about this.  Analysts say the ban could affect more than 3,200 weekly flights to the USA from 28 countries, although the US has remained tight lipped  over which countries would be targeted.

Trying to keep a straight face and claiming this is nothing to do with the UK pulling out of Europe, and the EC shaping up for a delivering a hard Brexit, Margaritis Schinas from the European Commission, told an incredulous Press conference on Monday, the meeting was hastily arranged following a conference call on Friday involving EC Home Affairs Commissioner a Dimitris Avramopoulos and EC Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and the USA Department Homeland of Security Secretary John Kelly. It is not known if anyone had involved the UK's CAA or UK politicians for that matter.

Margaritis Schinas said: “The [European]Commission will host high-level talks both at the political and technical level with the US authorities this Wednesday afternoon in order to jointly assess any new threats and work toward a common approach to address them.”

Media reports suggesting the US was contemplating  extending the ban on electronic devices to airlines operating in Europe started to surface last week, it was given impetus by the rogue ransom software infection shutting down computer networks including the UK National Health Service and Spains Telefonica, and the news that few of the systems involved were running fully secure operating systems. 

The initial laptop ban was imposed in March on direct flights to the US from 10 airports in North African and Middle Eastern airports. 

The airports involved were: Cairo (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Kuwait (Kuwait), Doha (Qatar), Casablanca (Morocco), Amman (Jordan), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).

Britain quickly followed but curiously exempted Emirates' home base of Dubai, Qatar’s hub in Doha and Etihad’s home in Abu Dhabi.

Clearly an extension of 'no laptops allowed'  would prove a major headache for airlines and their main revenue earners business travellers.  Airport operators are expecting to cope with hold- ups not only at initial baggage checks and security but a new raft of possibly x-ray checks at the departure gates.

 Sources suggest a meeting was held between airlines and US government officials last Thursday,  they all expected a subsequent announcement from the Department of Homeland Security soon after.

However, the Washington Journal reported there was no decision made by DHS Secretary Kelly, who was at the meeting, and a spokesman told the newspaper there was no specific timeline for a policy change but officials were continuing to evaluate threats.

 European airlines are said to be preparing for the announcement, although it is not yet clear which countries would be affected and whether the ban would also take in other regions such as the Asia-Pacific.

Gulf carriers affected by the March ban introduced a range of options to help passengers, such as airline owned loan laptops and/or tablets.

Medical equipment and small devices such as smartphones are not affected by the ban on taking bigger devices into aircraft cabins.

A major issue is how to safeguard against a concentration of lithium batteries in aircraft holds. Collectively they pose a risk known as thermal runway. Put crudely collectively Lithium batteries heat up, possibly burst into flame and may explode. 

Hold C (may also be tagged Cargo Bin C) is the usual designated bin for laptop transit, as Bin C is effectively 'radio' shielded, so no wireless or other electronic connection or stream can, say, be generated between a passenger operating a device whilst in flight in the cabin, and the laptop or other device stored in Hold C, picking up and acting on that transmission or acting on a 'trigger' signal.

In commercial passenger aircraft, hold spaces are usually pressurised, but not always the case, for example, any cargo holds located behind the aft pressure bulkhead would be unpressurized, these are mainly found in smaller aircraft, another exception would be aircraft like the 747 LCF (Dreamlifter). The cargo section is not pressurised, as there is a pressure bulkhead behind the flight deck section.  

There have been instances of the batteries catching fire on aircraft but they have been contained because many involved devices that were readily accessible in the cabin.

The International Air Transport Association [IATA] was highly critical of the original bans and called on governments to find an alternative. Clearly that is now not likely to happen anytime soon.

Security, the US said it was concerned about terrorists “ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years, as evidenced by the 2015 airliner downing in Egypt, the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia, and the 2016 armed attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul”.

“Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various electronic devices.

In a statement the US DHS said:  “Although the U.S. has instituted robust aviation security measures since 9/11, our information indicates that terrorist groups’ efforts to execute an attack against the aviation sector are intensifying given that aviation attacks provide an opportunity to cause mass casualties and inflict significant economic damage, as well as generate overwhelming media coverage.

“We note that disseminated propaganda from various terrorist groups is encouraging attacks on aviation, to include tactics to circumvent aviation security. Terrorist propaganda has highlighted the attacks against aircraft in Egypt with a soda can packed with explosives in October 2015, and in Somalia using an explosives-laden laptop in February 2016.’’

Sources: AP,Reuters,AirlineRatingsNews,CNS,BBCNews.



JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com
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