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Qantas crew praised for dealing with smoking mobile phone on flight to Dallas/Fort Worth

written by australianaviation.com.au | August 25, 2016

A file image of Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQD taken in 2011. (Paul Spijkers/Commons Wikimedia)
A file image of Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQD taken in 2011. (Paul Spijkers/Commons Wikimedia)

A mobile phone that started emitting smoke when trapped under a business class seat on board a Qantas Airbus A380 has highlighted the need to inform passengers about the dangers of travelling with lithium batteries and the importance well-practiced crew procedures for dealing with potential fire situations.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report on an incident that took place on May 16 2016 showed the charred remains of the mobile phone cabin crew retrieved from under seat 19F on the upper deck of the A380, VH-OQD, after it started emitting smoke.

The report said a passenger alerted cabin crew to the presence of smoke in the cabin about two hours before the flight from Sydney was due to land at Dallas/Fort Worth, at which point the crew initiated the “basic fire drill procedure”.

“Two of the cabin crew proceeded to the source of the smoke with fire extinguishers,” the ATSB report said.

“At the same time, the customer services manager (CSM) made an all stations emergency call on the aircraft interphone to alert flight crew and other cabin crew to the presence of smoke.


“The crew removed the seat cushions and covers from seat 19F while the CSM turned off the power to the centre column of the seats.

“When the seat was further dismantled, the crew found a crushed personal electronic device (PED) wedged tightly in the seat mechanism. The cabin crew assessed that the crushed PED contained a lithium battery.”

The charred remains of a personal electronic device found in a business class on board of a Qantas Airbus A380. (ATSB/Qantas)
The charred remains of a personal electronic device found in a business class on board of a Qantas Airbus A380. (ATSB/Qantas)

While the mobile phone was no longer emitting smoke, there was a “strong acrid smell” still in the cabin.

The mobile phone was placed in a jug of water and then put in a metal box and monitored for the rest of the flight.

The ATSB report said Qantas estimated there were about one billion lithium batteries transported by air each year.

Further, the ATSB has received 17 notifications of similar incidents over the past six years.

As a result, education of both its cabin crew and passengers was a “key component to managing these events”.

Qantas on-board announcements specifically tell passengers that if they lose their device to tell a member of the cabin crew and not to move the seat as it may crush the device and be a fire hazard.

“Raising passenger awareness of the potential hazards of PEDs commences at check-in, through to the pre-flight safety demonstration, and aims to minimise the risk of PED thermal runaway events,” the ATSB said.

The ATSB praised the Qantas cabin crew’s response to the incident, noting the airline’s basic fire drill was based on a teamwork approach.

“This incident provides an excellent example of an effective response to an emergency situation,” the ATSB said.

“The crew were able to quickly implement the basic fire drill procedure which defined the roles and responsibilities of the responding crew.

“This enabled a rapid and coordinated response to the smoke event using all available resources. The effective implementation of this procedure also ensured the flight crew were kept informed as the situation developed.”


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Comments (7)

  • The article did not mention if the craft was equipped with FireSock, FCB or HotStop. It might also be worthwhile looking at how seats can be redesigned to lessen the risk of phone crushing. Perhaps seats could be sleeved in a sock.

  • Peter Leech


    John so the nanny state mentality has to now move to aircraft, seat sock……are you joking.

    People need to take personal responsibility and more care otherwise do not use the phone on the plane!

  • richard wallace


    We used to call a “thermal runaway event”…………..a fire!

  • Vannus


    Seat 19F passenger obviously too intoxicated to realize what had happened to his or her, PED!

    Will QF ‘bill’ him or her,for the new seat?
    If they do, it’d be a valuable lesson for him or her…………

  • Martin


    Peter and Vannus, I think you are jumping to conclusions about carelessness and intoxication (unless you read the ATSB report and it said something like that). Phone could slip out of a pocket while sleeping then seat position changed without passenger being aware of what is happening.

    In any case, this isn’t just about the responsibility of one passenger, it is about the safety of all the passengers and the crew and the aircraft itself and why ATSB would look at and report on incidents like this.

    PS: I guess lockable doors to flight decks would have been treated by some as as nanny state stuff too until 9/11.

  • beech76


    You guys sound like engineers by blaming the passengers…now get back to work and fix the problem ?

  • Rich DC


    Careless idiot passengers, even in business class! Shows money can’t buy brains, once again… People should think about things before they do them. So simple, use your fricken brains!

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