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.