Diverted SFO flight raises lithium battery concerns

- A flight from JFK to SFO airport that was diverted to Grand Rapids, Michigan Tuesday because of a battery fire from someone's laptop, has re-ignited concerns over lithium batteries on flights. 

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed there were no injuries or damages reported. 

JetBlue said there were reports of smoke coming from a carry-on bag that had the laptop inside. 

Lithium batteries are found in most modern electronics devices. Manufacturers try to store as much energy as they can in the small batteries. 

Flight 915 landed safely at 8 p.m. Eastern time at the Grand Rapids airport and was inspected by a maintenance crew before continuing on to San Francisco. 

Passenger Alan Honniball said it was a "little scary to see smoke on the plane...I didn't know what was going on." 

"It was pretty scary though to see smoke on the plane. We're at 35,000 feet and all of a sudden we hear an announcement. and we look back in row 25 and we saw everybody standing up and smoke coming around. We didn't know what was going on,"  said Honniball." 

By the time the plane landed in Michigan, the air crew had already quelled the smoke and fire. "There was no fire. It was just that a battery was overheating. From where I was, I couldn't see anything," said passenger Trevor Smith.

It's just the latest in a long series of fires, over many years, attributed to high energy lithium batteries used in electronics from laptops to cameras, and iPads to iPods and everything in between.  Numerous tests have shown that the batteries can suddenly and without warning begin to smoke, flame or explode. Once a fire starts, other lithium batteries can easily ignite, which is why U.S. passenger planes no longer allow cargo shipments on them in their cargo holds and want passenger owned batteries brought aboard their carry on luggage.  Since the early 1990's, there have been more than 150 lithium battery overheating or fires aboard passenger aircraft.

Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Michael Mo's KULR Technology manufactures products to prevent overheating or to deal with runaway overheating batteries.

Lithiums are heavily implicated in the crash of Malaysian Airways flight 370 as well as the loss of two cargo aircraft.

JetBlue released the following statement: 

On May 30 JetBlue flight 915 from New York's JFK to San Francisco diverted to Grand Rapids, Mich., following reports of smoke emitting from a carry-on bag holding an electronic device. The flight landed safely and the aircraft is being inspected by maintenance crews before customers continue on to San Francisco.

 

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