Aviation occurrence briefs

Personal electronic device fire in-flight involving Airbus A380, 280km NE of Sydney, NSW, on 26 September 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On the 26 September 2018 at 0615 Eastern Standard Time, an Airbus 380 was in cruise toward the end of the flight from Los Angeles, United States to Melbourne, Victoria.

Shortly after a passenger in seat 18B had moved their seat they heard a cracking noise and could not locate their personal electronic device (PED). Smoke and flames were then observed emanating from the seat. Cabin crew confirmed the source of the smoke and flames was coming from under the seat.

Power to the row of seats was cut and cabin crew followed their basic fire drill training and discharged four BCF extinguishers and water to extinguish the fire.

The smoke dissipated and crew were able to distinguish the remains of a mobile phone at the rear of the left hand seat track, but were unable to remove it from its position. The decision was made to continue the flight to Melbourne and a cabin crew member was tasked with remaining seated beside the seat to ensure the phone did not reignite.

There were no injuries sustained and the remainder of the flight proceeded without further incident.

Engineers disassembled and checked the seat and found no damage to the seat, wiring or the surrounding area. The phone had been completely crushed by the seat.

Figure 1. Crushed PED in the seat track

Figure 1. Crushed PED in the seat track

Safety message

Dropping a PED whilst in flight is not uncommon, however passengers are reminded to never attempt to move the seat or extricate the PED themselves. If a PED becomes lost, alert a crewmember immediately. They will employ the appropriate techniques to find and remove the item, to ensure the device does not become a hazard in flight.

This incident highlights the effective response by cabin crew to an emergency situation. By quickly implementing the basic fire drill procedure the incident was effectively contained.

The ATSB investigation report, (AO-2016-066) 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 2016is available from the ATSB website for more information on the hazards PEDs.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.


General details
Date: 26 September 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0615 EST    
Location   (show map): 280 km (150 NM) NE of Sydney    
State: New South Wales    
Release Date: 04 January 2019   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus  
Aircraft model A380  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Los Angeles, United States  
Destination Melbourne, Victoria  
Last update 04 January 2019