A child’s toy sparked a mid-air drama after it caught fire during a flight.
The incident on board an Alaska Airlines flight shows the importance of lithium battery fire containment bags on aircraft as one was deployed to mitigate the danger to passengers and crew.
According to The Aviation Herald, the plane was flying from Puerto Vallarta in Mexico to San Diego in California on Wednesday, August 17, 2022 when smoke started to spiral from the child’s toy and there was a smell of burning.
Cabin crew doused the device with water and put it into a thermal containment bag. The flight continued safely to San Diego.
The USA National Response Center reported the incident with this statement: “A child’s toy with unknown type of battery starting smoking and producing a burning plastic odour onboard a flight. Water was applied to the item and it was placed in a thermal containment bag.”
Many airline operators worldwide are now equipped with lithium-ion battery fire mitigation bags to deal with incidents like this.
Most cabin crew include a warning in their pre-flight safety briefings to passengers to let them know if they lose their mobile phones or other personal electronic devices in their seats or they start to overheat or even burn.
The concern over the seats is that if the passenger moves the seat to try to find their device, they could accidentally crush it. This will damage the battery inside the phone or iPad, sending it into what’s known as thermal runaway.
This is a rapid, uncontrolled chemical reaction within the battery that causes the internal temperature to rise. When one cell in a battery overheats it can produce enough heat - up to 900°C (1652°F) - to make adjacent cells overheat too.
Batteries burning at such a high temperature are very difficult to put out and can even keep flaring up so they need to be contained within a special fire containment bag.
The most widely used on aircraft worldwide is the AvSax which won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK – the highest accolade any business can get.
AvSax are also known as ‘burn bags’ and more than 16,770 have been sold to more than 100 organisations worldwide, mainly passenger airline companies and helicopter operators. They have been used 33 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017 and every time they have been deployed the aircraft has been able to complete its journey safely with no need to divert or make an emergency landing.