China Southern Flight Makes Emergency Landing After Powerbank Fire

A China Southern plane has been forced to make an emergency landing after a battery exploded on board!

Fortunately, the flight had just taken off and the fire was able to be contained. No one was hurt.

What happened?

Flight CZ396 was taking off on its Penang, Malaysia (PEN) to Guangzhou, China (CAN) route (approx three hours), when a battery pack in an overhead compartment burst into flames.

The eight-year-old Airbus A321 was forced to call for help and return back to Penang to land. Fortunately, the onboard crew was able to subdue the flames and bring the situation under control.

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The fire damage in the cabin caused by the battery pack.

The flames from the fire burned the overhead bin and most likely melted whatever luggage was with it. The plane landed among fire engines and all passengers were deplaned. It is not confirmed as of yet if the passengers were evacuated, or if the plane was able to taxi to a gate.

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The flight path of the plane. As you can see it still had time to perform a fuel burn before landing

The plane was inspected, all luggage rescreened and passengers were invited to fly back. The plane then completed its normal route with the same crew and passengers a few hours later.

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Seat map of a China Southern Airbus A321

What caused the fire?

The culprit of the fire appears to have been a lithium-ion battery pack. Whilst we at Simple Flying don’t claim to be experts on electrical hardware (From Malaysia or China no less), it would appear to have been some sort of charging device.

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The battery pack that exploded on board.

The battery melted itself as it caused a fire.

Lithium-ion batteries are some of the most useful types of batteries that we have today. But they also are known to rarely catch fire, as volatile chemicals in the units mix with electrical currents. This causes the electricity to rapidly discharge (in a short circuit). This discharge instantly creates immense heat that can melt fabric, wood, plastic, and metal.

Some have suggested that these types of batteries may have caused other air disasters in the past.

For these reasons, many airlines and countries ban passengers from bringing battery packs on board. They balance the need for laptops, phones (although we did see airlines ban Samsung phones a few years ago when they were exploding) and other electrical devices that need batteries to run, but forbid any stand alone battery pack.

But as air travel becomes more common, and more electronics are carried on board, it is likely that events like this will become more frequent. Unless, of course, batteries are banned.

What do you think? Should batteries be banned?

All photos supplied by China Aviation Review