Mobile phone smoke causes KLM diversion

May 10, 2018
KLM phone overheat
Photo: KLM.

A KLM flight was forced to divert to Phuket Wednesday and make an unscheduled 18-hour stopover after another case of an overheating mobile phone.

The airline was also forced to cancel a Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur leg of the flight.

The Boeing 777 was at about 39,000ft about 100 nautical miles northwest of Phuket when the incident occurred.

KLM said in a statement that KL809 from Amsterdam to to Kuala Lumpur diverted to the Thai island after smoke accumulated in the cabin because a phone had overheated.

“The crew handled the situation well and the captain opted to land the aircraft as a precautionary measure. The aircraft landed safely and at no time were passengers or crew in danger,’’ the airline said.

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“A safety check has since been carried out in the cabin and the aircraft has been released for departure.

“Owing to compulsory crew work and rest times, the flight to Kuala Lumpur cannot continue immediately and passengers and crew are being accommodated in hotels in Phuket.”

Problems with lithium batteries and mobile phones are ongoing.

Airlines and regulators began warning people not to try and retrieve their device if they drop it after a number of fires were caused by phones being crushed in seat mechanisms.

But the devices also overheat spontaneously.

Passengers on a China Southern flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai in February were forced to disembark after a power bank caught fire in an overhead locker.

Images of the fire went viral after they were posted by other passengers and crew member could be seen using water or juice to try and douse it.

Klm phone fire diversion
The case burning on China Southern. Photo: Weibo.

In March, a woman on an Air Canada flight travelling between Toronto and Vancouver received burns and was taken to hospital after a phone caught fire.

One of the most widespread overheating problems occurred in 2016 with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.  The number of meltdowns prompted airlines around the world to ban the phones and led to the Korean manufacturer recalling 2.5 million units.

Nor are the problems restricted to mobile phones.

A passenger who fell asleep wearing a pair of lithium battery-powered headphones was lucky to escape serious injury when they exploded on a march, 2017 flight from Beijing to Melbourne.

KLM phone fire
The headphone victim.

“As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face,” she told Australian investigators at the time.   “I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck.

“I continued to feel burning so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire.

“As I went to stamp my foot on them the flight attendants were already there with a bucket of water to pour on them. They put them into the bucket at the rear of the plane.”

Loose lithium batteries are also prohibited in checked baggage and can be problematic in hand luggage.

In 2016, Australian authorities renewed warnings about the dangers of carrying loose lithium ion batteries on aircraft after a passenger’s hand luggage caught fire in a plane at Sydney Airport.

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