Aviation safety investigations & reports

Personal electronic device battery overheating event, aboard an Airbus A380 aircraft, near Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii, USA on 21 May 2014

Investigation number:
Status: Discontinued


On 23 May 2014, a Qantas Airbus A380 aircraft, registered VH-OQK, was operating a scheduled passenger service from Los Angeles, USA to Melbourne, Australia.  While overflying Hawaii, USA, the battery within a passenger’s personal air purifier (worn around their neck on a lanyard) began to overheat and produce smoke. The crew followed documented emergency procedures and immersed the device in water; effectively dissipating the heat from the battery and suppressing any further smoke evolution. The passenger received minor superficial burns which did not require first aid treatment.

A preliminary investigation conducted by the ATSB identified that the device contained a small non-rechargeable lithium battery; the size of which conformed with the limitations specified for carry-on items. The Bureau also found that the crew acted in an appropriate manner to manage the overheating battery and control the associated risks.

Given that the ATSB’s records show that this type of battery failure is quite uncommon and both the crew’s actions and documented procedures were effective in managing the small risks involved, there would be limited safety benefit in investigating the matter further, and as such, the ATSB investigation has been discontinued.

The ATSB continues to monitor and record incidents involving lithium batteries and reminds passengers to consult the dangerous goods brochure published by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority when bringing devices containing lithium batteries aboard aircraft.


General details
Date: 21 May 2014   Investigation status: Discontinued  
  Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Honolulu International Airport    
State: International   Occurrence type: Smoke  
Release date: 28 July 2014   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Discontinued   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 4th Quarter 2014    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus  
Aircraft model A380  
Aircraft registration VH-OQK  
Serial number 0063  
Operator Qantas  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Los Angeles, USAMelbourne, Vic.  
Destination Melbourne, Vic.  
Last update 14 November 2018