Aviation safety investigations & reports

Personal electronic device fire in-flight involving Boeing 747, VH-OJS, 500 km WNW of John F. Kennedy International Airport, United States, on 21 June 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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On 21 June 2016, a Qantas Airways Boeing 747-438 aircraft, registered VH-OJS, operated flight QF11 from Los Angeles, California, United States to New York, New York, United States.

At about 0700 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), a cabin crewmember responded to a request for assistance from a passenger seated in business class seat 3A. The passenger advised the crewmember of a missing personal electronic device (PED) containing a lithium type battery. The crewmember, along with the passenger, searched for the missing PED. While searching, the seat position was moved. As the seat moved, the passenger in the next seat observed the PED within the seat mechanism. The seat was then inadvertently moved, resulting in the PED being crushed. The crushed PED immediately began hissing and emitting smoke. Moments later, the PED ignited. A second crewmember then initiated the basic fire drill.

When the cabin crewmembers arrived at seat 3A, they observed an orange glow emanating from the seat. A crewmember discharged a fire extinguisher into the seat, extinguishing the glow.

Two passengers reported feeling unwell after the event, but it was unclear if this was as a result of the incident. The aircraft seat sustained minor damage.

This incident serves as an excellent example of an effective response to an emergency situation. The cabin crew quickly implemented the basic fire drill procedure. This defined the roles and responsibilities of the responding crew, enabling a rapid and coordinated response to the incident using all available resources. As a result, the incident was quickly and effectively contained. The effective implementation of this procedure also ensured the flight crew were kept informed as the situation developed.

This incident also highlights the hazards of transporting lithium-ion battery powered PEDs aboard aircraft. 


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin- Issue 52

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General details
Date: 21 June 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 07:00 UTC   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 500 km WNW of John F. Kennedy International Airport, United States    
State: International   Occurrence type: Fire  
Release date: 28 September 2016   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer The Boeing Company  
Aircraft model 747-438  
Aircraft registration VH-OJS  
Serial number 25564  
Operator Qantas Airways Limited  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Minor  
Departure point Los Angeles, USA  
Destination New York, USA  
Last update 14 November 2018