Headphones on Sleeping Passenger Explode Mid-Flight

Mar 15, 2017

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A passenger on a recent Air China flight from Beijing (PEK) to Melbourne (MEL) had a rude awakening — after dozing off two hours into her flight, she was woken by sparks, a burning sensation and a loud explosion. As the plastic continued to melt and the device caught fire, she ripped her headphones off and threw them to the floor.

“As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face,” she said. Luckily, flight attendants were there immediately with a bucket of water into which they threw the headphones.

report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau implies that the headphones’ batteries were the cause of the explosion, but didn’t specify the brand of headphones or batteries and noted that all batteries are a potential hazard. If you’re concerned, you can bring corded pair which don’t require batteries to operate.

The woman was left with burn marks on her face, neck, lips and hands and the cabin was filled with smoke and the foul odor of burnt plastic for the remainder of the trip. The flight didn’t divert for an emergency landing — even though “people were coughing and choking the entire way home,” according to the passenger.

This isn’t the first incident of a battery exploding on a plane — the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 famously caught fire on a Southwest flight last fall. Airlines distributed fire-containment bags for the phones and the FAA eventually banned them from all flights. Samsung recalled the product after numerous reports of the phone exploding.

In an August 2016 release, the ATSB said it “received 17 notifications of similar incidents of lithium battery thermal events in aircraft over the past six years.”

Lithium Ion batteries are used in millions of small electronic devices like phones and tablets due to their compactness and ability to charge quickly. Batteries explode when they are exposed to high temperatures and over time pressure builds up inside the casing. This pressure can get so strong it may puncture the casing. The ATSB advised that “batteries should be kept in an approved stowage, unless in use” and that “spare batteries must be in your carry-on baggage NOT checked baggage.”

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.

H/T: The Sydney Morning Herald

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