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NEW DELHI: In yet another case of a personal electronic device (PED) emitting smoke after possibly catching fire, a laptop on IndiGo’s Thiruvananthapuram-Bengaluru flight had to be sprayed with fire extinguishers last Saturday (November 11). The latest scare happened on 6E-445 (VT-IGV) when passengers reported burning smell from a black bag. The airline crew sprayed fire extinguisher, relocated passengers from nearby seats and kept the laptop in a container of water till the plane landed safely.
Confirming this, an IndiGo spokeperson said: “IndiGo crew operating flight 6E-445 from Thiruvananthapuram to Bengaluru noticed the smoke smell in the cabin on November 11, 2017. The crew quickly identified minor sparks coming from the hat-rack of seat 24RH and immediately informed the pilot-in-command. Taking precautionary measures, the cabin crew on priority relocated all passengers from adjacent seats. Smoke from a black laptop placed in the hand baggage was discharged with a fire extinguisher, as per the standard operating procedures prescribed by the aircraft manufacturer. The laptop was then transferred into a container filled with water in lavatory. The aircraft made a normal landing at Bengaluru airport, all passengers were deplaned as per normal procedure and the DGCA was voluntarily informed.”
“We are thankful to passengers for their cooperation extended to the crew on board. At IndiGo, safety is of the utmost priority and at no time it can be compromised,” the airline added.
Indian skies are also witnessing the increasing phenomenon of PEDs catching fire. Last month, a mobile phone caught fire mid-air on Delhi-Indore flights of another airline. The DGCA had some years back put in place a standard operating procedure to handle such situations. Crew are now trained to immediately spray fire extinguisher on the bag from which smoke is emanating. Once smoke stops, the device from which the smoke was coming is put in a can of water till the aircraft lands safely and then the PED is sent for examination.
The DGCA is examining if fire proof cases should be made mandatory on long flights, especially those over oceans which do not have any airport nearby to land as soon as possible. PEDs which catch fire and/or are emitting smoke are to be put in these boxes and the aircraft can safely fly to its destination or till an alternate airport. The DGCA had two years back banned mobiles of a particular brand from being taken on board planes as they were catching fire frequently.
International aviation agencies have started considering banning big PEDs from check-in bags because of fears that their battery fire would go undetected, leading to possible catastrophes. In hand bags, on the other hand, cabin crew are now trained to handle PED fires as soon as anyone notices smoke emitting from the bag they are kept in. Power banks, portable mobile charges and e-cigarettes are already banned in check-in baggage in India.
The International Civil Aviation Organization’s dangerous goods panel is examining a working paper on “PEDs carried by passengers and crew” to address safety concerns regarding PEDs being stowed in checked baggage. The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has submitted its test results in this ICAO paper, which concludes that fire in PED kept in cargo hold “could lead to loss of aircraft”.