The Government of Canada issued a new warning to travellers today. The government had been investigating what caused a fire to break out on a WestJet plane as it was already in flight. Now that the investigation has concluded, the Canadian Government is warning people not to pack lithium-ion batteries, used for devices such as e-cigarettes, in their suitcases because they were found to be the cause of the fire.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigative report today on a baggage compartment fire that took place on a WestJet flight last year in June 2018. The plane was already in the air, 9000 feet above sea level, when the fire started. It had just departed Calgary International Airport in Alberta.
A cargo fire warning light came on while the plane was already in the air and shortly after, this resulted in flight crew having to declare a MAYDAY emergency, according to the investigation report from the TSB. The plane returned to the Calgary airport ten minutes later.
Now over half a year later, the government has concluded the reason for the fire. It was all due to lithium-ion batteries, which are found in vaping devices such as e-cigarettes. A passenger had left two spare lithium-ion batteries in their checked luggage, which sparked the fire to start in the baggage compartment of the airplane.
This incident has prompted the government to remind flight passengers of the dangers of carrying e-cigarettes in checked luggage. "This report highlights the hazard that lithium-ion batteries, such as those found in electronic cigarettes, pose to the safety of aircraft when stored in checked baggage", read the investigative report.
The government warns passengers that vaping devices cannot be put in checked baggage. "Passengers are reminded that these items must be carried in the cabin, where an incident can be immediately mitigated, and not in checked baggage".
"E-Cigarettes are permitted in carry-on baggage but not for use on board the aircraft due to the high temperatures they generate," reads the report. "Batteries must be removed to eliminate the risk of unintentional activation and individually protected so as to prevent short circuits".
This isn't the first time lithium-ion batteries in vaping devices have caused fire problems on flights. "The proliferation of lithium-ion batteries in personal electronic devices has resulted in an increase in aviation cargo and passenger baggage events involving smoke, fire, extreme heat, or explosion," read the report. "As at 02 May 2018, the United States Federal Aviation Administration has recorded 206 air/airport incidents involving lithium-ion batteries carried as cargo or baggage since 20 March 1991".
You can read the full report from the TSB on their website.