Remnants of a mobile phone which was accidentally crushed in a passenger plane seat and then caught fire in a previous incident Remnants of a mobile phone which was accidentally crushed in a passenger plane seat and then caught fire in a previous incident

A mobile phone crushed in a seat sparked a fire alert on a huge airliner.

The man had lost the phone down his seat but failed to follow the safety briefing to call a member of the cabin crew to retrieve it.

An increasing number of airline companies are now working this warning into their pre-flight safety instructions in a bid to avoid a potential fire on board which could, in the worst case scenario, have catastrophic consequences.

According to the website www.airlineratings.com the business class passenger on the Qantas Airbus A380 flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne accidentally crushed the phone while moving his seat in an attempt to retrieve it.

The crew used fire extinguishers and, after taking advice, the captain continued the flight which by then was just two hours out of Melbourne.

A Qantas spokesman said: “This incident shows why we ask passengers to seek help from our cabin crew in retrieving their mobile phones.”

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) estimates the average Australian passenger travels with three to four personal electronic devices on their person with another one to two packed in checked baggage.

CASA states: “While rare, there have been incidents of malfunctioning/damaged lithium batteries in recent years with the most common cause being smartphones and their batteries being crushed in passengers’ seats.”

Crushing a phone is not the only reason a  battery might ignite. Others include electrical shorting, rapid discharge, overcharging, a manufacturing defect, poor design or by simply being dropped.

The more severe cases can result in a “thermal runaway”,  a rapid reaction within the battery causing internal temperatures and pressure to rise to the point that flame shoots out of the phone.

CASA warns: “Once one cell within a battery goes into thermal runaway it can produce enough heat to cause adjacent cells to sympathetically react. This can produce  smoke, fire and fumes that can repeatedly flare up as each battery cell in turn ruptures and releases its contents.”

One of Australia’s first reportable lithium battery events happened in November 2011 when a passenger’s iPhone started emitting smoke on a plane landing at Sydney. The overheating was traced to a loose screw from an unapproved screen repair which caused a short circuit.

For more on this story go to https://www.airlineratings.com/news/crushed-phone-ignites-qantas-passenger-ignores-safety-video/

* More than 50 airline companies across the world – including some of the biggest and best-known - now carry AvSax fire containment bags to deal with fires in personal electronic devices caused by lithium-ion batteries that power them.

The bag – which won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise this year - has been used 27 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017.