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Crushed phone starts smoking on Qantas international

September 28, 2018 Headline News No Comments

It’s happened again – a Qantas business class passenger has dropped their phone into the seat mechanism during a long-haul international flight – with the device starting to smoke when it became crushed in the mechanism.

The incident is remarkably similar to one in June 2016 in which a mobile phone was caught and crushed in a reclining seat on a Qantas B747-400 flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. The 2016 incident caused a fire. The latest one, which happened on Wednesday morning, didn’t.

The latest incident took place on an A380 from Los Angeles to Melbourne. A Qantas spokesperson told ABC News the phone began “smoking” before cabin crew “contained the situation”.

The captain then spoke to the operations centre before completing the flight into Melbourne.

Airlines are constantly reminding passengers not to attempt to retrieve any electronic devices dropped into seats during the flight. They should call a flight attendant.

After investigating the 2016 incident, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) cited US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines which warn of the risk posed by lithium batteries.

“Lithium batteries are capable of ignition and subsequent explosion due to overheating,” the FAA said.

“Overheating results in thermal runaway, which is a chemical reaction within the battery causing the internal temperature and pressure to rise.

“The result is the release of a flammable electrolyte from the battery and, in the case of disposable lithium batteries, the release of molten burning lithium.”

This phone ignited after it was crushed in a similar incident on a Qantas flight in 2016. (Source: ATSB)

Airlines and aircraft seat manufacturers have been working together since 2016 to prevent mobile phones being caught in seats and crushed.

After the 2016 incident, Qantas procedures in battling the blazing phone won praise from the ATSB, which called it “an excellent example of an effective response to an emergency situation”.

The ATSB revealed following the 2016 incident that a review of reported events had revealed no fewer than 22 similar occurrences of trapped or crushed personal electronic devices (PEDs) producing smoke and/or heat. The incident was the first event to result in fire.

“The investigation determined that the likely area for the PED to intrude into the seat mechanism was adjacent to the seat belt anchor point. This area becomes more exposed as the seat reclines towards the flat position,” the ATSB said.

Fortunately, smoke from PEDs doesn’t always mean fire, as the Qantas business class passenger found out this week.

Written by Peter Needham

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