Taiwan carrier turns back after passenger device catches fire

May 09, 2016 13:53
The V Air flight to Tokyo returned to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport 30 minutes after take-off. Photos: Facebook, Baidu

A Taiwanese budget carrier flying to Tokyo was forced to turn back 30 minutes after leaving the airport in Taipei because a passenger's mobile power bank caught fire, news website standnews.com reports, citing local media.

The plane operated by V Air took off from the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport about 10:30 p.m. Friday with 161 passengers on board. It was bound for Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

However, the chief pilot decided to make a U-turn 30 minutes later after a mobile lithium battery power pack owned by a passenger gave off smoke and caught fire by itself.

Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council said the fire occurred while a 27-year-old male passenger surnamed Lin was using his power bank to charge a mobile phone on his seat.

It said the incident was the first of its kind to ever happen on a Taiwanese aircraft.

Cabin crew quickly used fire extinguishers to put out the fire and dropped the overheated device into a bucket of cold water, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

None of the passengers and cabin crew were injured in the incident.

The authority later said the mainland-made power bank was a cheap copy of a similar device made by Chinese phone maker Xiaomi, Apple Daily reports.

A spokesman for Xiaomi said investigation revealed that the power bank in question was a knockoff, and called on consumers to buy its genuine products online.

Under Taiwan’s civil aviation law, power banks and batteries are not allowed in checked luggage but can be carried by passengers inside their carry-on bags.

Lo Kok-keung, a fellow at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, told Apple Daily that consumers should only buy power banks and other devices under reputable brands and to check them from time to time while charging to avoid overheating, adding that overnight charging should be avoided.

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