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The U.S. plan to ban laptops from airliner cabins on flights originating in Europe is drawing increasing resistance from the European Union, a UK pilot union and business travelers. EU aviation authorities will meet this week to consider the proposed laptop ban. The issue became the center of a Washington political firestorm this week on reports that President Donald Trump revealed classified information to Russian diplomats related to intelligence on terrorists’ plans to use laptops as explosive devices.

The Department of Homeland Security in March banned laptops in cabins of U.S.-bound flights originating in 50 cities, most in the Middle East. It has proposed expanding the ban to include European departure cities, but no effective date has been announced. The proposal hasn’t been received warmly in Europe.

The British Airline Pilots Association said this week that banning laptops creates a catastrophic fire potential in aircraft baggage holds. In a statement released on May 14, BAPA’s Steve Landells said, “Given the risk of fire from these devices when they are damaged or they short circuit, an incident in the cabin would be spotted earlier and this would enable the crew to react quickly before any fire becomes uncontainable. If these devices are kept in the hold, the risk is that if a fire occurs the results can be catastrophic. Indeed, there have been two crashes where lithium batteries have been cited in the accident reports.”

Landells added that the union doesn’t doubt the security threats represented by laptops improvised as bombs, but it urged authorities to assess the additional fire risk before “solving one problem by creating a worse one.”  Meanwhile, European governments planned to meet with DHS officials on Friday, worried that the ban will “create logistical chaos” on the world’s busiest transoceanic travel corridor. EU officials want to know if the proposed ban is in reaction to any specific threat, but DHS has said it is not.  The head of CNAPS, a French security agency regulator, agreed that the initial implementation would be chaotic. "You need a lot of time to inform them and a lot of time for it to enter people's heads until it becomes a habit," said Alain Bauer. "After a week of quite big difficulties, 95 percent of people will understand the practicalities," he added.

The Business Traveler’s Coalition is also protesting the ban. The organization said lost productivity is an issue, but the larger concern related to demand for business travel. “Most organizations -- corporations, universities, governments -- will not allow employees to check laptops, most of which have sensitive information on them. IT chiefs and risk managers are very conservative and assume everything on a laptop is sensitive, such as emails, contacts, hiring, marketing and sales strategies, new product diagrams …”, said BTC’s chairman, Kevin Mitchell in a letter to DHS. “Simply put, the ripple effects of this could create an economic tsunami of the likes which terrorists are dreaming of,” he added.

Other countries are reviewing policies on laptops in cabins. Canadian officials say they aren’t considering a laptop ban for now, but Australia is considering following the U.S. lead on laptop restrictions, according to ABC Online.

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The Coast Guard said late Tuesday that is has spotted debris in the water near where a missing Mitsubishi MU-2B is believed to have disappeared on Monday. The flight was en route from Puerto Rico to Florida when controllers lost radar contact with it 15 miles east of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

Onboard the aircraft was the pilot, Nathan Ulrich, CEO of the Skylight Group, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Blumin. Also aboard were believed to be Blumin's two young children. Blumin founded Skylight Studios, which refurbishes derelict buildings and turns them into event spaces. Ulrich is the founder and co-owner of Xootr, a manufacturer of kick scooters and folding bicycles.

The debris was sighted about 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday by a Coast Guard helicopter. However, the agency did not confirm that it came from the missing MU-2. The airplane was cruising westbound at FL 240 on Monday morning when it dropped out of radar contact. No significant weather was reported in the area and ATC reported no distress call. A Coast Guard cutter was dispatched to the scene on Tuesday afternoon. 

image: CBS News

A Learjet 35 crashed in a parking lot while on approach to Runway 1 at Teterboro Airport, in New Jersey, about 3:30 Monday afternoon, killing the two pilots. The two, who reportedly were professional crew members, were the only people on board. The jet had taken off from Philadelphia International Airport, and was owned by A&C Big Sky Aviation in Billings, Montana. It hit a building in an industrial area about a quarter-mile from the airport, skidded across the roof and hit another building before coming to rest on the pavement. Two buildings were damaged by fire, but nobody on the ground was reported hurt. A post-crash fire destroyed the aircraft. About a dozen cars also were destroyed. The flames were quickly doused by first responders. “The plane is pretty much disintegrated,” Carlstadt Mayor Craig Lahullier told local reporters in a news conference.

Local officials told reporters on Monday evening it was “a miracle” that there weren’t more injuries on the ground. One of the buildings had recently been vacated by workers who completed their shift about 3 p.m. On Tuesday afternoon, NTSB investigator Jim Silliman told reporters that a cockpit voice recorder had been recovered and was being shipped to NTSB headquarters. He said the flight wasn't required to have a CVR. Silliman also said the wind at the time of the crash "was a concern." Winds were gusting at more than 30 mph. "It seemed [controllers] were talking to the aircraft while it was on approach and the pilots didn't give any sense of an extreme situation or identify any problem with the aircraft at the time," he said. Surveillance video from the area appears to show the airplane rolling to the right in a nose-down attitude just before impact, which Silliman said indicates a loss of control. "Why it got there is of course the subject of the investigation," he said. The pilots have not yet been positively identified.

Monday’s crash was the sixth major accident at the airport since 2005, according to the local nj.com news site. Click on the link below for the audio from the control tower in the final moments of the flight, provided by liveATC.net.

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Aerones, a drone company based in Latvia, has posted a video online showing a custom drone with 28 rotors carrying a skydiver aloft to about 1,000 feet, where he lets go and parachutes to a safe landing. The drone launches from a pond, then picks up skydiver Ingus Augstkalns from a nearby tower. The company claims it is the “first human flight with the drone and jump at high altitude.” The stunt is the latest in a trend to experiment with the capabilities of drones for extreme sports — back in December, Casey Neistat posted video of being lifted aloft and towed while snowboarding with a drone, and a team at Vertipod experimented with a man-carrying drone in 2015.

Aerones has been experimenting with heavy-lift drones that can be used for firefighting and rescue, as well as sports and entertainment. The company said it spent six months preparing for the stunt, including test flights with the drone carrying payloads up to 440 pounds.

Several upcoming airshows in the U.S. and Canada have been canceled, following an announcement Monday evening that the Canadian Forces’ Snowbirds have temporarily suspended air show performances. The team made the announcement on its Facebook page, following an appearance at the Memphis (Tenn.) Airshow. “A reduced training period hampered by poor weather which continued into the show season, resulted in numerous canceled practices,” said Major Patrick Gobeil, Snowbirds team lead, in the Facebook post. “As a result, more training is required before the Snowbirds resume the 2017 schedule.” The team typically completes about 20 practices during spring training, but this year completed only 13. The grounding is expected to continue through at least June 4.

The 2017 Rochester (N.Y.) International Airshow has been cancelled, as well as the Airshow YQG in Windsor, Ontario. “Military performers, and particularly the demonstration teams like the Snowbirds, are the main draws of a show," Windsor airshow director Paul McCann told CBC News. "When they're not able to participate, the financial impact is significant." The Rhode Island National Guard Airshow in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, will go on without the Snowbirds. Appearances in Fort Erie, Ontario; Whiteman, Missouri; and Duluth, Minnesota, also are cancelled. The team has returned to their home base at CFB Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and will “return to the air show circuit once we have the consistency required for our dynamic nine-aircraft aerobatic performance,” according to the Facebook post.

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Toyota has long been rumored to have an interest in flight (see here and here for example) and recently they put some money into backing the Cartivator flying-car project, based in Japan. The investment is modest — about $375,000 over three years — but Cartivator is staffed by 15 young volunteer technicians, and the company says the money will go far to support work to “accelerate engineering development to achieve CRM’s aim to light the flame with a flying car at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Opening Ceremony.” Currently Cartivator is working to build a full-scale model of their design, which they have been working on for three years.

To realize the dream of a compact flying car is “very difficult,” the team’s blog acknowledges, “due to noise control, all-weather treatment, and security of absolute safety.” Details about the technology are scanty, but an illustration shows a small one-seat vehicle, with the passenger riding in a semi-reclined position beneath a canopy, with a large front window. It has two wheels beneath the passenger seat, one small wheel in front, and four horizontal rotors arrayed at the four corners. The team hopes to have a production version available for sale to the public in 2023, then start mass production by 2040 for both the developed world and the developing countries. By 2050 they hope to achieve “a world where anyone can fly in the sky anytime.”

The recent Uber Elevate conference also set a goal of 2020 to have flying-taxi test projects up and running in both Dallas and Dubai.

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What started out two weeks ago as, if not a trial balloon, perhaps a rumor, may be about to happen. Several news outlets have reported that the U.S. wants to expand a policy to ban any electronic device larger than a cellphone from airline cabins on flights to the U.S. originating in Europe.

Recall that this very ban was put into place in March, but it was limited to about 50 flights a day from 10 cities, mostly in the Middle East. The wider ban would apply to European cities as well, although no details of its implementation date have been announced. The Department of Homeland Security said the new ban isn't in response to a specific threat, but to a believed new capability among terrorist organizations.

Rather than trot out the predictable snide remark about security theatre, I will instead ask a more sincere question: What is the threat matrix here? How significant is this threat? Banning laptops is a fairly big deal because so many business travelers returning from Europe use the plodding nine or 10-hour flight into headwinds to catch up on work they missed during their trips. I know because I am one of them and I will be traveling in Europe next month.

There's a tradeoff, of course. How much additional safety is achieved by inconveniencing business travelers and concentrating all those LiPo batteries in the cargo holds of 400 airliners a day? Under current guidelines for domestic flights, you can be fined for checking baggage with batteries, which is why when I board an airliner, my roll-aboard is stuffed full of all the camera batteries I'm not supposed to check, plus a laptop, a cellphone and an iPad.

The thinking for this policy is sound. You can at least access LiPo batteries in your carry-on and they are less likely to get manhandled to the point of shorting the internals, a leading cause of lithium ion battery fires. To be sure, these have occurred in airline cabins, but they have proved manageable. Surrounded by other flammables and despite baggage compartment fire suppression systems, I'm less sanguine about batteries I can't see cooking off in checked baggage.

DHS argues that even laptops or devices with explosives concealed inside are less threatening than they would be in a cabin because it takes more explosive energy to breech a baggage container and cause significant enough damage to bring down an airplane. Also, says the agency, checked baggage is more rigorously checked than are carry-on bags. Pardon me, but I don't have much confidence in that claim.

If I had my druthers, I'd take my chances with whatever is in the cabin, thanks. On the plus side, this is a policy that ought to stimulate the sales of paper books and magazines and since I'm in the business of the latter, perhaps I shouldn't complain.

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Beautiful skies are the theme this week but Rusty Eichorn got the winner in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Rusty has won before and we only got three usable entries this week. Flying season is here. Send us your best photos.

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