Passenger plane’s emergency landing after laptop catches fire

A passenger plane was diverted and had to make an emergency landing after a passenger’s laptop erupted in flames.

The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900 was flying from Newark in New Jersey to San Francisco in California on Sunday, August 2, when the battery in the passenger’s laptop went into thermal runaway and caught fire.

Thermal runaway 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.

According to the Aviation Herald the fire happened about 40 miles east of Columbus in Ohio. Flight attendants extinguished the fire and secured the device while the flight crew diverted the aircraft to Columbus, requested emergency services on standby for the arrival and landed the aircraft safely about 25 minutes later.

The aircraft remained on the ground for more than two hours and reached San Francisco after a delay of 3 hours.

Incidents of thermal runaway are on the rise. There have been 268 involving lithium batteries reported to the Federal Aviation Administration in the USA since 2006.

Many airlines now carry specialist fire containment bags to minimise the risk.

AvSax are the world’s best-selling aircraft fire containment bags by far and are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 80 airline companies. They have been used 32 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. Diversions can be very costly to the airline company and can even run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

AvSax won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK in 2018.