One of the world’s most well-known airlines has had to deal with a lithium battery incident at 30,000ft.
A mobile phone overheated and started to emit smoke on the Air France flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Ghana’s capital city Accra.
The passenger aircraft was about three hours into the flight when the passenger’s phone battery began to emit electrical smell, heat and smoke.
According to the Aviation Herald: “A passenger reported there was suddenly a pungent electrical odour. This passenger checked his own phone which was okay, then looked around.
“One of the seat neighbours had the smartphone on charge and it’s understood it was that phone that was about to suffer a thermal runaway. Cabin crew got hold of the phone, put it onto the floor and discharged two or three fire bottles and cans of water onto it and then took it away in a secure container.”
The aircraft then carried on to Accra where it landed just over three hours later.
Thermal runaway happens when a lithium battery overheats, usually because it is faulty, damaged or cheaply made and doesn’t conform to safety standards.
During thermal runaway, 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, because they burn at such a high temperature, they are very difficult to put out.
The incident happened on August 21, 2023, and is the third high profile incident in recent months.
On August 14 a power bank fell between two seats, become crushed and started to emit smoke during a China Eastern Airlines flight from Lhasa in Tibet to Shanghai.
The pilots diverted 130 miles to Wuhan where the plane landed safely just over 20 minutes later while the crew manage to retrieve the power bank and cool it.
On May 18, 2023, a lithium battery in an e-cigarette sparked a fire on board an easyJet plane which made an emergency landing minutes later.
The easyJet Airbus had just taken off from Geneva in Switzerland when passengers heard a popping sound and smoke started to spiral from an overhead locker.
When crew opened the locker they found two pieces of luggage in flames.
It’s thought the lithium battery in an e-cigarette inside one of the bags had gone into thermal runaway, setting fire to the bag and the flames then spread to the other bag. The crew managed to extinguish the fire.
The plane with 191 people on board was climbing at around 7,000ft when this happened so the pilots abandoned the climb, donned oxygen masks and then landed back at Geneva 16 minutes after taking off.
The potential dangers of lithium battery fires are well-known within the airline industry which is why more than 100 airlines are now equipped with lithium battery fire mitigation bags called AvSax which are on more than 16,750 aircraft worldwide.
The bags are specially designed to cool the overheating electronic devices to minimise the risk of serious damage to the aircraft and injury to passengers and means they can continue their journeys safely after a lithium battery fire.
AvSax was devised and manufactured by Environmental Defence Systems Ltd based in Yorkshire, England, and won the Queen’s Award for innovation in the UK, the highest accolade any business can achieve.
For more information on AvSax go to www.avsax.com