There’s never a good time for your handset to spontaneously combust, but you really don’t want it to happen at 35,000 feet.
Unfortunately for passenger Anna Crail, this is precisely what happened on a recent Alaska Airlines flight from Washington state to Hawaii.
Crail was watching a movie when “eight-inch flames” started shooting from her iPhone 6. She told Seattle media site Komo News she feared for the plane’s safety when the drama began.
“I thought we were going down, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a fire on the plane,'” she said.
When she saw the flames leaping from the phone, Crail said she flipped the burning handset off her tray table and onto the floor but “it got under someone’s seat, and the flames were just getting higher and a bunch of people stood up.”
Thankfully for Crail and the other 162 passengers on board, the crew managed to quickly contain the fire before things got really hairy.
It’s not yet known what caused the incident, but the findings of other investigations into similar fires suggest the phone’s lithium-ion battery (or what’s left of it) will be carefully examined by the Federal Aviation Administration’s investigating team.
Damaged or dodgy lithium-ion batteries are a serious concern for airlines. Faulty units that powered part of Boeing’s state-of-the-art Dreamliner plane caused several fires in 2013, forcing aviation authorities around the world to ground the plane for several months until a redesigned battery could be fitted.
And from next month, airlines are banned from carrying cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger aircraft until improved fire-resistant packaging has been developed.
With most of our gadgets using lithium-ion batteries, airlines have long banned passengers from packing devices into checked baggage, preferring to have them in the cabin where, in the rare event of a fire, a situation can be quickly spotted and dealt with.
However, following multiple reports recently of hoverboard fires caused by faulty batteries, many airlines have stopped passengers from taking the personal transporter on board.
Considering how many handsets are in use today, such fires are highly unusual. In the last couple of years, unlucky phone owners have included a guy whose device caught fire as it charged by his bed, an 8th grader in Maine whose handset started smoking in her back pocket, and, more recently, an Atlanta man who felt a burning sensation in his pants that turned out to be his phone on fire. Rest assured, it probably won’t happen to you.