The crew of a SriLankan Airlines flight was able to extinguish a lithium battery that burst into flames inside an overhead bin mid-flight from India to Sri Lanka, averting what could have been a major air disaster.
SriLankan Airlines said flight attendants aboard flight IL 166 from Kochi to Colombo noticed smoke coming from an overhead bin in the rear of the Airbus A330-200. After opening the bin, they found a passenger’s carry-on bag was on fire.
The flight attendants sprayed the bag with a fire extinguisher and removed it from the bin. The battery then began to shoot smoke at an even stronger rate, prompting the crew members to immerse the bag in water as lithium battery fire procedures call for.
After extinguishing the fire completely, flight crew found two cell phones and a lithium battery pack inside the bag. Had the crew members not acted so quickly, the malfunctioning battery could have set off a chain-reaction with the other lithium batteries.
None of the crew or the 202 passengers aboard the flight were injured and the plane made it safely to its destination. The battery was taken by fire officials to be examined by “dangerous goods experts,” the airline said.
The incident heightens concerns about what could be the biggest threat to aviation safety these days: lithium batteries overheating and/or malfunctioning in-flight.
In May, a JetBlue Airbus A321 flying to San Francisco from New York was forced to make an emergency landing in Michigan when a lithium battery pack exploded in an overhead bin. The crew extinguished the fire in-flight and none of the 158 passengers and crew were injured.
“There’s no single manufacturing safety standard for lithium-ion batteries,” Col. Steven Ganyard, USMC-Ret. told ABC News. “They could be made anywhere by anyone and you never know what you’re going to get. The cheaper they are, the less well built they are and the higher the risk of fire.”