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Air passengers warned over battery fire risk

It follows two on-board fires in recent months


A plane in the sky

Aviation chiefs have warned passengers of the dangers of badly-packed batteries and battery-powered devices on planes.

There have been two serious incidents on passenger aircraft in recent months, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

In February 2007 a fire started in an overhead locker in the cabin of an aircraft which had just taken off from New York.

Prompt action by cabin crew ensured the fire was extinguished without any injury to passengers or crew, but the aircraft had to return to New York for an emergency landing.

Laptop battery

Although the incident is still under investigation, it is believed the fire was caused by a battery in an overhead locker, carried on board by a cameraman, which had short-circuited and overheated.

In May 2006, a spare laptop computer battery which had been stored in a carrying case caught fire while the aircraft was waiting to depart. Cabin crew threw the burning case from the aircraft and the fire was extinguished by the fire service.

The CAA said passengers frequently travelled with electronic gadgets including laptops, mobile phones and MP3 players. Batteries installed in these rarely pose a safety problem. However, if they are loose or the equipment is inadvertently activated, there is a danger of fire.

Geoff Leach, Manager of the CAA’s dangerous goods office, said: ‘Passengers can take some simple steps while packing their bags to ensure that their batteries and equipment are carried safely.’

These include:

  • Keeping spare batteries in their original packaging; this is designed for transporting them and will keep the terminals protected. If original packaging is not available, insulate the terminals so they cannot come into contact with other metal objects.You can pack each battery in its own protective case, resealable plastic bag or package, or cover the terminals with insulation tape. Both measures should be taken for batteries with protruding or sharp terminals, such as those found in smoke detectors.
  • Pack spare batteries in carry-on baggage as incidents are easier to detect quickly within the cabin than in the hold.
  • Don’t carry counterfeit batteries. Although they appear the same as the batteries they imitate, they do not have the necessary safety features. Batteries should only be bought from reputable sources.
  • Don’t carry batteries which have been recalled by the manufacturer for safety reasons.

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