Aviation safety investigations & reports

Cargo hold smoke event involving a Boeing 737, DQ-FJH, Melbourne Airport, Vic, on 26 April 2014

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 26 April 2014, a passenger checked in four bags for a Fiji Airways flight from Melbourne, Victoria, to Nadi, Fiji. The operating aircraft was a Boeing 737 aircraft registered DQ-FJH. The passenger was a certified remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operator. The passenger stated during check-in that there were no batteries in their checked bags.

At about 2230 Eastern Standard Time (EST), the aircraft was at Melbourne Airport and the passengers’ bags were being loaded. The cabin crew members were on board preparing the aircraft and the first officer was in the cockpit conducting pre-flight checks. The captain was conducting an external inspection of the aircraft. A ground engineer observed smoke emanating from the aft cargo hold, alerted the captain and notified the aerodrome rescue and firefighting (ARFF) service. The captain saw white heavy smoke billowing from the hold and immediately called the first officer to advise him. The captain directed the first officer to activate the aft cargo hold fire suppression system, shut down the auxiliary power unit and order an evacuation of the aircraft.

The ARFF determined that the source of the smoke was a smouldering case. They removed it to a safe location and cooled it with a fine water spray. The ARFF and Australian Federal Police subsequently inspected all four of the bags checked in by the passenger and found 19 batteries intact and an additional 6-8 that were destroyed by the fire.

Initial investigation revealed that an electrical short circuit involving lithium batteries caused the fire. Contained in the case were several batteries and an RPA controller. An RPA was found in one of the passenger’s other checked-in bags.

This incident highlights the hazards associated with transporting lithium batteries and the need to individually protect batteries to prevent short circuits and minimise the risk of overheating and fire.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 34

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General details
Date: 26 April 2014   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 2220 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Melbourne Airport    
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: Smoke  
Release date: 03 September 2014   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer The Boeing Company  
Aircraft model 737-8X2  
Aircraft registration DQ-FJH  
Serial number 29969  
Operator Fiji Airways  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Melbourne, Vic.  
Destination Nadi, Fiji  
Last update 14 November 2018