E-cigarette batteries were the cause of two recent fires involving Canadian airliners, including one in-flight fire in the cargo hold of a passenger jet.
Canadian authorities said the latest fire occurred in Cancun, Mexico, on Jan. 12 as baggage was being loaded onto Air Transat flight 443. According to Flightglobal, a preliminary aviation incident report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said that “brown smoke could be seen coming” from one piece of luggage being loaded onto the Vancouver-bound Airbus A321.
The report stated that the smoking suitcase was removed from the gate area and doused with a fire extinguisher. Investigators determined that the lithium-ion batteries for an e-cigarette overheated, starting a fire that burned through the bag.
The incident underscores the danger e-cigarettes and the lithium-ion batteries that power them pose to flights. As in the U.S., Canadian aviation authorities prohibit passengers from packing lithium-ion batteries in checked bags. Spare batteries for e-cigarettes and other devices may be stowed in carry-on bags only.
Fortunately, the e-cigarette erupted in the bag before it was loaded into the cargo hold of the plane.
That wasn’t the case in a fire that broke out aboard WestJet Flight 113 from Calgary to Vancouver on June 14, 2018.
The WestJet Boing 737-700 plane was climbing through an elevation of 9,000 feet when the crew received an aft cargo fire warning light. The flight crew immediately activated the cargo hold fire extinguishers and turned the aircraft around.
The plane made an emergency landing back in Calgary. Investigators found that the owner of the bag had put two spare e-cigarette batteries inside a charger into the front pocket of his backpack. The batteries ignited during the flight, burning the backpack and a section of the cargo hold.
Nobody was injured in either of the incidents, but both fires demonstrate the costs e-cigarettes and their batteries can cause in property damage and travel disruptions as well as the potential for catastrophic fire.