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How Dropping Your Phone On A Plane Can Set Fire To The Aircraft

Safety agency warns how phone accidents can lead to big problems.

12/12/2016 11:19 AM AEDT | Updated 12/12/2016 1:15 PM AEDT
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Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority has a grim warning for the holiday travel season -- if you drop your phone on a plane, don't move, leave it, and ask for help. It might seem like overkill, but a new official warning outlines how a simple accident, clumsiness or butterfingers could lead to a fire onboard.

CASA has issued a warning about phones being crushed inflight. Due to the new ultra-slim design of modern smartphones, they can easily slip between seats on aircraft; and due to the more powerful lithium batteries, the risk of crushing the phone in that seat can lead to fire or explosions onboard.

"Smart phones can fall into aircraft seat mechanisms and be crushed when the seat is moved," CASA said in a statement.

"This can result in damage to the phone's lithium battery which can cause overheating and fire."

The agency claimed there were at least nine "emergency events" of phones being crushed on aircraft in 2016. CASA has named "damaged and lost phones" as "the biggest dangerous goods safety risk".

The CASA advisory says that airlines will be told to brief passengers not to move their seat if they drop or lose their phone, and to instead ask airline staff for help. Anecdotal reports state that such briefings are already happening on some Australian air routes.

"Passengers must remember never to move their seat if a phone goes missing while inflight and to always ask the aircraft cabin crew for assistance. If a phone is damaged cabin crew should be alerted immediately," CASA warned.

Besides crushed phones, CASA said lithium batteries, hoverboards and oxygen tanks make their dangerous goods list. The safety authority said travellers are still not carrying batteries or power packs safely, despite multiple and well-publicised warnings and awareness campaigns.

"Spare batteries must never be carried in checked luggage at any time but should be taken on board aircraft in carry-on baggage with the battery terminals protected," CASA said. For more information on how to carry batteries on planes, see the CASA dangerous goods website.

Hoverboards, or self-balancing scooters, set off numerous safety warnings around the time of their peak popularity last year, with multiple reports of the toys catching fire. CASA warns they are still dangerous.

"Hover boards have made the dangerous goods list for the first time, with passengers still packing the self-balancing scooter in luggage despite widespread warnings. The absence of manufacturing standards for hover boards creates an increased risk of fire," CASA said.

"Compressed oxygen also makes the dangerous goods list, with passengers requiring oxygen for medical purposes failing to contact their airline before travelling."

For more information, see the CASA website.



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