FAA investigating smartphone fire on flight to Hawaii

A damaged iPhone, like the one accidentally crushed by a Delta Airlines passenger.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a smartphone fire on board a Delta Airlines flight to Hawaii after a passenger accidently crushed his phone.

Officials said the male passenger was travelling from Fukuoka to Honolulu when he dropped his iPhone 7 between two seats. As he attempted to recover it, the passenger shifted his seat crushing the device’s battery. This sent the phone into thermal runaway; a condition where damaged and burning battery cells ignite nearby cells, causing a rapidly growing fire that resists extinguishing.

According to local news services, the passenger’s fingers were singed and the smell of burning plastic and smoke was present in the cabin.

The crew retrieved the phone and stored it in a fireproof box for the remainder of the flight.

While the incident was without major consequence, it does serve as a timely reminder about the dangers of battery-powered devices, with lost and damaged smartphones recently named as the most problematic passenger item in Australian skies for 2016.

The growing rate of these incidents has seen major carriers review seat designs and update passenger safety videos, including Qantas and Virgin, warning travellers not to move their seat if they lose an electronic device.

The issue of crushed smartphones first came to prominence in 2015, when a British Airways 787 was forced to declare an emergency and land in Russia after reports of smoke in the cabin. It was later revealed the smoke came from a passenger’s damaged phone that had been crushed between two seats.

You can find more safety information about lost and damaged smartphones via the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s website.