Air Accidents Investigation Branch issues warning after passenger's phone gets stuck in seat, catches fire

The incident happened on a flight from Miami to London.
The incident happened on a flight from Miami to London. Photo credit: Newshub (File)

A warning has been issued by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) about the dangers of mobile phones on commercial passenger flights.

Insted of warning about possible interference caused by cell phone signals, it relates to something much simpler: what could happen should a phone get stuck inside a passengers seat.

The warning comes after what the AAIB has described as a "serious incident" onboard a British Airways flight from Miami to London late last year. 

Approximately 40 minutes before landing, the crew instructed passengers to return their seats to their upright position in preparation for take off.

According to the report, the announcement woke a passenger who then moved her seat from the flat-bed position to a more upright position, then left her seat to use the bathroom. 

One of the crew members then began to stow the passengers bedding while the seat was empty.

"As she removed the bedding, she smelt a strong odour and noticed a charging cable which was plugged in to the seat socket with the other end down the side of the seat. The smell, which she described as like 'sulphur', was getting stronger so she attracted the attention of the senior cabin crew member," the report read. 

"At this point they heard a 'hissing' sound and a large  plume of grey smoke emitted from the seat in a 'tornado' motion. They remembered seeing an orange glow in the seat area amongst the smoke." 

Crew members cut the power supply to the seat and used an onboard fire extinguisher to spray the cracked phone which had become stuck in the chair mechanism.

Heathrow's fire service was put on standby for the arrival of the aircraft, and a crew member sat with a fire extinguisher next to the seat for the remainder of the flight.

The AAIB determined that the fire was caused by the mobile phone which had fallen down the side of the seat and had been crushed in the seat mechanism.

It has recommended that the Civil Aviation Authority require passenger seats in commercial air transport aircraft to be designed as to minimise the chance of portable electronic devices becoming crushed in mechanisms.