China Eastern A320neo Diverts Following A Device Fire In The Cabin

An Airbus A320neo operated by China Eastern had to return to Nanjing earlier today (04/09/2019). The diversion back to the aircraft’s origin was prompted by a passenger’s device catching fire on the flight.

China Eastern, Airbus A320neo, Cabin Fire
A China Eastern Airlines Airbus A320neo suffered an onboard engine fire. Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia

Thankfully aircraft fires are rare. They can, however, have serious consequences. For example, the structural integrity of an aircraft could be compromised by fire. Just over a week ago, an Air China Aircraft caught fire at the gate in Beijing.

Fires in the air are even rarer, yet can be even more deadly. It’s no wonder then that the crew took precautions when a battery carried by a passenger caught alight yesterday.

So, what happened?

The aircraft affected by the fire was B-6892, an Airbus A320neo operating a China Eastern flight between Nanjing and Xiamen.

Unlike the vast majority of incidents we report on, this one has something unique. Usually, I start off by saying that the flight was already off track by departing late. However, things are different here. MU2809 departed from Nanjing at 07:04, just four minutes behind schedule.

The flight began without incident, flying roughly south towards the destination of Xiamen. However, events took a turn for the worse. Around a third of the way into the flight, the pilots turned around and returned to Nanjing.

The reason for the diversion was slightly worrying. A passenger’s portable electronic device caught alight. According to the Aviation Herald, the fire was extinguished by cabin crew on the flight. They then secured the item to ensure it would not catch alight a second time. It is then reported that the aircraft touched down in Nanjing after 65 minutes in the air.

Scorched interior

Photos shared of the interior show the extent of the damage to the Airbus A320neo. Thankfully it looks like the burning was mainly superficial. It appears to have slightly damaged the cabin’s interior.

China Eastern, Airbus A320neo, Cabin Fire
Thankfully the fire was swiftly contained. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia

Photos show a large sooty deposit on the wall, which is reaching around the side of an airplane window. It was caused by a battery pack which ignited. The battery pack had a rating of 40.7Wh. This is around two-fifths of the maximum permitted at 100Wh.

Airport security has reportedly decided to warn passengers of the dangers of batteries on aircraft, using the incident as an example. Thankfully the fire occurred in the main cabin and was put out swiftly. Had the fire occurred in the cargo hold of the aircraft, this could be a different story.

Were you onboard the affected flight? What do you make of the story? Let us know in the comments.