The Trump administration has given us no shortage of reasons to be concerned, but while today’s Comey revelations are exactly as bad as I’d thought they’d be, there’s one baffling Trump administration trend that hasn’t gotten nearly as much social media heat under it: That’d be Donald Trump’s bizarre, insidious impact on the aviation industry. Because it seems that with every news cycle, we’re given yet another reason to wonder what Donald Trump has against air travel.
First, there’s Trump’s underreported adverse impact on aviation in Florida: His frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago have been awful for business at Lantana Airport, which is required to shut down every time Trump flies in to play golf. According to Orlando Weekly, “Lantana businesses, including flight schools, a sky-banner operation and other aviation companies, say they are losing thousands of dollars every weekend the president plays a few holes of golf.”
Then, of course, there’s the laptop ban, which nonsensically attempts to address a terrorism risk by burdening airlines with a heightened risk for on-board fires. Here’s the thing about lithium ion batteries in laptops: They can catch on fire. If this happens in the cabin of a plane in-flight, cabin crew are trained to put out the fire. But if a battery ignites inside checked luggage, cabin crew can’t do anything about it. And if the batteries are grouped together, and one catches on fire, then the rest can ignite too. You don’t want this! So it’s very odd that this is exactly what the ban is encouraging airlines to do—to collect laptops before flights and put ’em all cozy together in the cargo hold.
THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.
The heightened risk was enough to prompt the Flight Safety Foundation to issue a press release explaining why it’s a bad idea. Salient points in bold:
The concern of the international aviation community is that there have been occasions when the lithium batteries in PEDs have suffered thermal runaway and caught fire. To mitigate this risk, cabin crew have been trained in how to manage these situations. With the transport of PEDs on certain flights now restricted to the cargo hold, along with other potentially flammable items within checked-in baggage, a known and managed risk has effectively been transferred to another part of the aircraft where, should thermal runaway occur, it is rendered inaccessible to cabin crew.
Flight Safety Foundation urges the industry to fully consider the consequential risk associated with the transport of these devices within checked-in baggage. In most cases, when thermal runaway occurs, the PEDs have been turned on. Before the devices are placed in checked baggage, they must be powered off, be protected from accidental activation, and be protected from damage. The risk, however, that some of these items may be left on cannot be overlooked.
The laptop rule is a great example of anxiety-based logic in action: There’s a remote possibility of one disastrous outcome, and because we’re so desperate to do SOMETHING about it, we’re willing to increase the possibility of something equally bad to give us the illusion of control. Making decisions based on irrational fears is rarely a good idea on a personal level, but if you end up getting stuck in a stairwell because you were too afraid to take the elevator, only you suffer. When anxiety-based logic is used to create policy, it has implications for everyone. It’s irresponsible. It’s bureaucratic dysfunction at its most bizarrely wasteful.
And now the Trump administration thinks it’s a good idea to privatize our country’s air-traffic control system. OMFG? Overhauling air traffic control in this way would be a huge undertaking of questionable value. I wouldn’t trust the Trump administration with anything close to it.
Hell, given their record, I wouldn’t trust them to run an airline ticketing counter.