Aviation

Crushed iPhone starts fire on international flight

An aviation authority in the UK has issued a warning after an iPhone caught fire when it was crushed in a lie-flat bed during an international flight.

According to an incident report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in the UK, a passenger plane that departed from Miami International on 1 October 2020 was preparing to land at London Heathrow when a passenger noticed a “sulfur” smell.

The report said the incident occurred about 40 minutes prior to landing when a crew announcement woke the passenger, who moved her seat from the flat-bed position to an upright position before standing to use the bathroom.

A cabin crew member asked the passenger to stow her bedding before she left her seat, which revealed a charging cable plugged into the seat socket with the other end down the side of the seat.

She said she noticed a strong smell, which she described as “sulfur” and attracted the attention of another cabin crew member.

“At this point, they heard a “hissing” sound and a large plume of grey smoke emitted from the seat in a “tornado” motion,” the report said.

“They remembered seeing an orange glow in the seat area amongst the smoke.”

The cabin crew worked fast to switch off the power to the seat and fetch a fire extinguisher and fire gloves.

According to the report, they pulled back the padding of the seat revealing the passenger’s iPhone was caught in the seat mechanism.

“She discharged several bursts of BCF into the device. The crew member then collected a water extinguisher and filled an ice bucket with water,” the report said.

“After the [crew member] had discharged the BCF, the smoke quickly dissipated and the crew were able to clearly see a red mobile phone trapped in the seat mechanism.”

“The crew attempted to remove the device but it was jammed. There was very little heat coming from the device. They checked for secondary heat sources but did not find any.”

Just to be sure, a crew member stuck close to the seat for the remaining 20 minutes of the flight with an extinguisher ready, the report noted.

The flight was met by firefighters upon landing at Heathrow, who were able to remove the device from the seat.

There was no damage to the aircraft, but the AAIB used the incident to remind passengers to be cautious when using electronic devices while flying.

The report noted that the “operator’s operations manual” states that devices can be used throughout the flight, but must be switched off and disconnected when not in use and must be charging while the passenger is sleeping.

Data from the Civil Aviation Authority shows 166 previous reports of devices becoming trapped in passenger seats over the past five years, with 42 resulting in fire or smoke in the cabin.


Featured image source: AAIB

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