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A320, vicinity New York JFK NY USA, 2007

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Summary
On 10 February 2007, smoke was observed coming from an overhead locker on an Airbus A320 which had just departed from New York JFK. It was successfully dealt by cabin crew fire extinguisher use whilst an emergency was declared and a precautionary air turn back made with the aircraft back on the ground six minutes later. The subsequent investigation attributed the fire to a short circuit of unexplained origin in one of a number of spare lithium batteries contained in a passenger's camera case, some packaged an some loose which had led to three of then sustaining fire damage.
Event Details
When February 2007
Actual or Potential
Event Type
FIRE
Day/Night Day
Flight Conditions VMC
Flight Details
Aircraft AIRBUS A-320
Operator JetBlue Airways
Domicile United States
Type of Flight Public Transport (Passenger)
Origin New York/John F Kennedy International Airport
Intended Destination Nassau
Actual Destination New York/John F Kennedy International Airport
Flight Phase Climb
ICL / ENR
Location - Airport
Airport vicinity New York/John F Kennedy International Airport
FIRE
Tag(s) Fire-Cabin Baggage origin
EPR
Tag(s) “Emergency” declaration
CS
Tag(s) Cabin air contamination
Hand held extinguisher used
Outcome
Damage or injury Yes
Aircraft damage Minor
Causal Factor Group(s)
Group(s) Aircraft Operation
Safety Recommendation(s)
Group(s) None Made
Investigation Type
Type Independent

Description

On 10 February, 2007 an Airbus 320-200 being operated by JetBlue Airways on a scheduled passenger flight from New York JFK to Nassau was climbing through 7000 feet in day VMC when the cabin crew reported to the flight deck that there were signs of smoke from an actual or incipient overhead bin fire. Whilst the cabin crew discharged a fire extinguisher into the locker and then at the source bag after removing it, the flight crew levelled the aircraft at 7600 feet, declared an emergency and made a priority return to JFK which was reached without further event six minutes later. After stopping on the runway to confirm that no continuing hazard existed, the aircraft was taxied in to the gate and passengers left normally.

Investigation

An investigation was carried out by the NTSB which found that the smoke had originated from a bag containing camera equipment which had been stowed in an overhead bin. Examination of the contents of the bag disclosed that it had contained a nylon camera equipment bag within which was a video camera and various ancillary items including a number of batteries, both loose and in packs, to which fire damage was evident in the case of two 14 volt rechargeable lithium ion battery packs and one 9 volt lithium battery. Further investigation showed that the 9 volt battery had sustained damage consistent with a catastrophic internal failure. It was found that ”the main component of the 9-volt battery had a flashpoint of 21 degrees Fahrenheit, or room temperature. Other batteries, located in the same pocket of the equipment bag as the 9-volt battery, had unprotected contacts, including (the) two fully charged 14-volt battery packs. One of the 14-volt battery packs displayed significant exterior thermal damage, consistent with damage from coming in contact with another battery.” It was noted that battery industry research has indicated that a short circuit is the most common cause of battery fires and is often initiated when contacts come into contact with metal objects (such as parts of other batteries).

The Investigation determined that the Probable Cause of the in-flight fire was the catastrophic failure of a 9-volt battery from an unknown cause.”

The Final Report of the Investigation was adopted on 30 April 2008. It did not include any Safety Recommendations.

Further Reading