Smoke on SriLankan flight likely caused by lithium-ion battery

Commentary: SriLankan Airlines says its flight crew found a battery and two mobile phones in a smoking bag stored in an overhead bin.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

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The airline says no one was hurt and the flight landed safely. 

Ishara S.kodikara / AFP/Getty Images

It's not often that you're on a flight and an overhead bin begins pumping out smoke.

That, however, is what happened on a SriLankan Airlines flight from Kochi, India, to Colombo, Sir Lanka, on Sunday.

The crew had just completed meal service when smoke began wafting through the back of the Airbus A330-200, according to a press release. Understandably, this alarmed some of the 202 passengers aboard.

The crew grabbed fire extinguishers, opened the bin and found a stowed bag emitting the smoke. Adopting a "lithium fire extinguishing procedure," the crew grabbed the bag and took it to aft galley, by which time it had begun to smoke more profusely. 

Then they threw the bag in a container of water, according to the airline. The crew found a lithium battery pack and two mobile phones in the bag. 

SriLankan Airlines didn't respond to an inquiry as to what sort of battery pack and phones may have been involved.

The incident is yet another timely reminder that electronics remain combustible, despite advances in technology.

Airlines, including SriLankan, banned the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 after it suffered repeated explosions while on terra firma. 

Still, planes aren't immune from such incidents. Last year, an Alaska Air passenger said her iPhone 6 exploded into flames. It shocked her so much, she said, that she thought the plane would crash.

Ever since cellphones became ubiquitous, there's always been the risk that a fire -- usually blamed on the battery -- might occur on a flight, just as much as anywhere else. 

In the SriLankan incident, the airline said the plane landed safely and "dangerous goods experts" met the flight on its arrival. An investigation is taking place. 

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