‘Smoke and flames’ from charger on airline seat

Uncomfortably close: the remains of the aircraft seat. Source: Massachusetts State Police

The latest case of an in-flight lithium-ion device fire highlights the dangers these near-universal portable power sources continue to pose.

Virgin Atlantic flight 138 was 25 minutes into its flight from New York (JFK) to London (Heathrow) when, in the words of a subsequent police report, ‘Smoke and flames were emanating from a passenger seat.’ Cabin crew extinguished the fire and the aircraft made an emergency landing at Logan Airport, Boston, on the US east coast.

At the airport a bomb disposal unit from the Massachusetts State Police inspected the seat and found wires protruding from the area of the fire. They found ‘a battery pack consistent in appearance with an external phone charger’.

There were no casualties apart from one passenger, who, according to the police report declined medical attention for a smoke-related complaint.

The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) estimates up to 500 lithium batteries are carried in hand luggage and pockets on a typical single-aisle airliner flight. CASA has a page listing the rules and guidelines for travelling with lithium batteries.

Previous lithium battery fires on commercial aircraft have involved mobile phones, bluetooth headphones and electronic tobacco smoking devices.




  1. ………..and the idiots think that EP planes & Uber Air drones etc are gunna be safe? Remember the B787 when it first started Ops? Lots of battery issues! Luckily these contraptions are a looooooong way off if ever!
    I’d hate to imagine how many of these batts are being flown around this country daily?

    I’ve personally had a LiPo Batt just catch on fire & watched the molten mess fall from the sky!

  2. Walter,
    Their only cosern is with airlines, the risk can’t be with single seat experimental planes with tilt canopy’s carrying lithium batteries in mobile phones, GPS, i pad etc.
    Because if there was a fire risk we can’t get rid of em in flight, can’t through any thing from a plane,
    Can’t open the canopy anyway, so if ya iPhone starts to smoke an splutter molten masses of doom over ya crotch ya gunna go down in a fire ball.
    The only thing to do is assume the ‘brace for impact position’ an while ya there kiss ya arse goodbye.

    Sorry mate, just my sick humour, I’ve thought about this on more than one occasion and what I’d do if a device started to smoke in flight, l guess I’d call it in and try and get rid of it any way l could before it got too hot to handle even with gloves on.
    I’ve even practiced this on ground run up’s at full revs if you can hold the control column with your kneecaps, grab the offending health risk it’s still bloody hard to open the canopy to chuck it out.
    Maybe a trapdoor is the best way to go, and it would be an extra advantage to dump the bilge on cross country flights.

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