A major nationwide news network in the US is reporting that a passenger’s backpack exploded due to a lithium battery on a jetBlue plane – bringing to 60 the number of on-board battery incidents in the US alone this year.
NBC says the fire is believed to have been sparked by a phone charger and happened in a bag owned by former American Idol contestant Jimmy Levy who described the bag as exploding in a fireball heading towards his face.
The flight was on Monday, October 30, from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in south Florida.
It happened as passengers were boarding so the crew quickly evacuated the plane at the gate.
A jetBlue spokesperson said: “Our crew immediately responded and addressed the situation and there were no requests for medical assistance. Safety is our number one priority and we are investigating the incident.”
Fortunately this frightening fire scare happened when the plane was on the ground but it would have been very different while cruising at 35,000ft. When lithium batteries overheat they go into what’s known as thermal runaway which happens when one cell in a battery overheats it can produce enough heat – up to 900°C (1652°F) – to cause adjacent cells to overheat. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare repeatedly and they are very difficult to put out.
This is why many airlines now carry AvSax lithium battery fire mitigation bags that you’ll probably never see as they are packed away on the aircraft but within easy reach for the crew should a lithium battery emergency happen. It’s also why cabin crews now talk about lithium battery safety as part of the pre-flight safety briefing.
AvSax are now on board around 16,750 aircraft operated by more than 100 airline companies worldwide. In short, they are the benchmark for lithium battery fire suppression bags and the best-selling aircraft lithium safety ‘burnbag’ by far.
The reason is that it meets the airline industry recommendation that a lithium battery bag shouldn’t just contain the overheating device, it should continually cool it down too which the AvSax does. Lithium batteries don’t need oxygen to keep flaring up so cooling them is the most effective way to tackle them. The AvSax is made from military grade material so if the device does explode, the debris will be contained within the bag.
Imagine if this happened at cruising altitude without an AvSax, the danger would be it could send sharp debris flying around the passenger cabin, potentially causing severe injuries and even catastrophic damage to the aircraft.
To watch the full NBC news report on the jetBlue incident go to https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/alarming-incidents-involving-lithium-ion-batteries-on-planes-197075013798