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Exploding Headphones on Plane

Flying in an airplane is definitely a scary thing to do without even considering other risks. After a woman’s headphone batteries had allegedly exploded on a flight from Beijing to Melbourne, a passenger warning has been issued.

According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the unnamed woman was asleep when the incident occurred. She fell asleep with her headphones on when she awoke to an explosion. “As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face. I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck,” she said. “I continued to feel burning so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire.”

In a picture taken right after the incident, the woman is seen covered in soot and having burned hair. The woman’s worst injury were the blisters on her hand she had received from taking her headphones and throwing them on the ground. Despite her rather serious injuries, she did not need any medical attention after the incident.

After she had taken her headphone off and had thrown them on the floor, the woman attempted to stop the fire by continuously stepping on the headphones. Eventually, flight attendants were able to take out the fire using a bucket of water. The battery and headphone cover melted and stuck to the floor of the aircraft, causing many passengers to cough because the smell of melted plastic and burnt hair released toxic fumes.

In today’s day and age, exploding batteries are not unheard of. Consumer products around the globe are subject to faulty batteries. Dozens of hover boards had “exploded” and have caused numerous injuries and even death. Similarly, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 had a faulty battery that led to small explosions when charging the device.

The main issue for such faulty batteries is the lack of regulation in battery safety. Manufacturers cut corners looking for cheaper alternatives to the much more expensive batteries that companies normally use. Specifically, for Samsung, the principle cause of the Galaxy Note 7 battery issues was due to manufacturing problems, including an abnormal weld spot and a battery casing that was too small.

Regarding the headphones, the ATSB refused to disclose the headphone brand because “it was a battery issue, not a headphone issue.” To understand why batteries are becoming such an issue, one must look at the process of creating a battery. “Lithium-ion batteries have a history of issues in relation to mobile and portable devices,” the ATSB added. “But all batteries contain stored energy and are therefore potentially risky.” During the actual manufacturing process, small cuts in the battery can be created, eventually becoming much more detrimental if left unseen. Today, major companies are creating extra precautions to create even safer batteries. The ATSB had reminded passengers to follow a routine of safely storing and using technology on planes:

  • Batteries should be kept in an approved stowage, unless in use.
  • Spare batteries must be in your carry-on baggage NOT checked baggage.
  • If a passenger’s smart phone or other device has fallen into the seat gap, locate their device before moving powered seats.
  • If a passenger cannot locate their device, they should refrain from moving their seat and immediately contact a cabin crew member.


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