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Faulty Phone Battery May Have Caused Fire That Brought Down EgyptAir Flight MS80 (ibtimes.co.uk) 142

New submitter drunkdrone writes: "French authorities investigating the EgyptAir crash that killed 66 people last year believe that the plane may have been brought down by an overheating phone battery," reports International Business Times. Investigators say the fire that broke out on the Airbus A320 in May 2016 started in the spot where the co-pilot had stowed his iPad and iPhone 6S, which he placed on top of the instrument panel in the plane's cockpit. From the report: "EgyptAir flight MS804 was traveling from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar on 19 May 2016. Egyptian investigators have speculated that the crash, which killed all 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel on board, was caused by an act of terrorism due to traces of explosives reported to be found on some the victims. Investigators in France have disputed these claims, saying that data recorded from the aircraft around the time it disappeared points to an accidental fire on the right-hand side of the flight deck, next to the co-pilot. According to The Times, CCTV pulled from cameras at Paris' Charles de Gualle airport show that the co-pilot stored a number of personal items above the dashboard, where the first signs of trouble were detected. This included an automated alert indicating a series of malfunctions on the right-hand flight deck window, followed by smoke alerts going off in a toilet and in the avionics area below the cockpit, minutes before the plane vanished."
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Faulty Phone Battery May Have Caused Fire That Brought Down EgyptAir Flight MS80

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  • hmmm... is this is proven or even not, i wonder if the lawyers would go after apple as I am sure the airline probably already settled as is the case with crashes.

    • What else was in the bag?

      Were the devices actually turned on? Were they charging?

      Test question, fill in the blank:

      Lawyers need ____ (hint: evidence).

  • by aberglas ( 991072 ) on Friday January 13, 2017 @07:29PM (#53664157)

    The batteries burn, not violently explode. The pilots would have seen and smelt smoke, and done something about it, like move the phone out of the cockpit.

    This is more likely a pilot suicide.

    • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Friday January 13, 2017 @07:33PM (#53664189)

      The batteries burn, not violently explode. The pilots would have seen and smelt smoke, and done something about it, like move the phone out of the cockpit.

      This is more likely a pilot suicide.

      It's quite possible;e by the time the fire was discovered it was too late. A very hot fire could quickly get out of control, such as one that brought down SwissAir 111.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        There would seriously be some cursing and yelling on the cockpit tape if a battery caught fire like those Samsung phones - just look at the videos.
    • Even a slightly enriched O2 atmosphere can turn a smoldering ember into a raging conflagration pretty quickly. Remember the high school experiment in electrolysis? Not the one where the Hydrogen and Oxygen are recombined to produce heat and water, the other one where red-hot steel wool combusts spectacularly.

      By the way, both are really cool - under controlled circumstances. The problem is, lithium ion battery technology packs a lot of energy into a really small package. Drop atmospheric pressure to aro

    • So of all the possible people on all possible planes it's the flight crew? And of all the batteries on planes, it's from a device that isn't particularly renown for bursting into flames? It would probably be more likely if the pilots were smuggling something and that caught fire.

    • Watch some lithium battery explosions on youtube.  It happens super fast.
  • For the non specialist, this sounds like a broad simplification.
    How did the Copilot not notice early when fire was emergent and controllable?
    How can a pair of devices a tablet and an phone exposed on a dashboard a few inches at reach from a the copilot down a whole plane in a few minutes?

    I've seen Air Crash episodes about Lithium batteries starting a massive fire in a cargo bay just under the electronic compartment of a 747. But here the situation looks much more genuine. Is it sensationalism at work again?
    • You wouldn't leave them on a dashboard. Loose objects have to be secured on the flight deck. Most likely they got stuffed into a pocket along with paper documentation.

  • Meteor
    Spontaneous combustion
    Explosive free radicals
  • by HuskyDog ( 143220 ) on Friday January 13, 2017 @07:33PM (#53664181) Homepage
    Surely, if a fire started as described (in the cockpit, right next to the pilots) the voice recording would contain utterances like "Bloody hell, my phone's caught fire!" or "Hand me that extinguisher we've got a burning iPad" or similar (and in Arabic obviously). Does anyone know if this is the case?
    • ... or "Hand me that extinguisher we've got a burning iPad" or similar (and in Arabic obviously).

      Flight crews worldwide communicate in English.

    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday January 13, 2017 @07:48PM (#53664277) Journal

      The recorder did in fact record the pilots trying to put out a fire in the cockpit.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/n... [independent.co.uk]

      • Just to clarify, this was deduced from the flight data recorder, not voice recordings. The voice recorder was apparently damaged by salt water and data not recovered so far.

        • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday January 13, 2017 @08:40PM (#53664475) Journal

          The sub-headline of the story I linked to is:

          --
          Information from the flight's cockpit voice recorder suggests the pilot tried to extinguish a fire in the cockpit before the plane crashed
          --

          The French article says:
          --
          the CVR (cockpit voice recorder) indicates that one of the two pilot present in the cockpit of flight MS 804 ...
            it was not this fire that suddenly cut, at 37,000 feet, the other black box, the flight recorder (FDR)
          --
          Translated by Google translate.

          The article explicitly says "not the OTHER black box, the flight data recorder".

          • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Friday January 13, 2017 @09:57PM (#53664851)

            Yes, your link trumps mine. The Figaro article from July certainly says that, and there are other reports [theguardian.com] of the word "fire" from the voice recorder, so I guess they did recover data from it, and the Wikipedia article could use an update. The whole thing seems to be a bit short on official comment, this latest being hearsay from "a source from the investigation".

            • I went to update the Wikipedia page and found it says:

              Media reported that data from the cockpit voice recorder indicated one of the pilots had tried to extinguish the fire in the cockpit before the airplane crashed.[104] However, after these reports were released, the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority urged "media to be cautious while issuing press releases about the accident and to only rely on official reports issued by the committee itself."[105] Later, on 16 July, the committee confirmed that the cockpi

              • The flight recorders section omits some of the media reports referenced in the investigation section, and does not state that the voice data record was successfully repaired.

                BTW, there are photos of the recovered flight recorders. [independent.co.uk] No apparent structural damage. It is likely that the enclosures are not waterproof even when undamaged.

  • One would think an electronic device that catches fire while _on_ an instrument panel would be noticed long before said fire is able to damage the instrument panel and cause the plane to crash. The cockpit recorder should have picked up a few explicit verbal phrases if such an event had taken place. Different story if the phone was within luggage in the bottom of the plane. Perhaps right under the cockpit?
    • > The cockpit recorder should have picked up a few explicit verbal phrases if such an event had taken place.

      The recorder did in fact record the pilots trying to put out a fire in the cockpit.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/n... [independent.co.uk]

      No I don't know the exact wording they used.

      • According to the article you linked to, the fire the pilots were trying to put out was not responsible for the crash and was likely a secondary fire. From Google translate:

        What is certain is that it was not this fire [cockpit fire the pilot was attempting to extinguish] that suddenly cut, at 37,000 feet, the other black box, the flight recorder (FDR), located at the back of the plane.

        So there might have been a fire but it is more likely it came from inside the instrument panel then from on top. Either that or there just happened to be an exploding phone the exact same time a different explosion took down the plane.

    • The cockpit recorder should have picked up a few explicit verbal phrases if such an event had taken place.

      Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] reports that the flight data recorder was repaired after being recovered from the ocean, but offers no further information on the voice recorder other than that it was sent to France after initial recovery attempts failed. It seems credible that voice recordings are not available.

  • by doug141 ( 863552 ) on Friday January 13, 2017 @07:38PM (#53664227)

    If the day ever comes an exploit can cause a phone to catch fire, imagine all the implications.

    • Software issues right now can make my android phone run hot and exhaust its battery in an hour or so.

    • this is actually a legit concern. A bad actor (likely at the state level) exploits a zero day with a fake wifi access point in the boarding area that loads malware on passenger phones. Malware causes a race condition that results in phones rapidly overheating/catching fire while in flight. Flight crew then needs to deal with many near simultaneous phones on fire - whether on person, in seat backs or in overhead bins. Would think odds of one spreading would be fairly good.

  • It was actually downed by fake news.
  • I'm curious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday January 13, 2017 @07:44PM (#53664255)

    So Egyptian investigators are claiming it was a bomb, while the French say there was likely a fire which started on the flight deck. Are the French investigators disputing the claim that "traces of explosives" were found on some of the victims? Or are they saying "well sure there was explosive residue, but that's not what brought the plane down"... because that would be weird and scary.

    • Watched enough Mayday to know that traces of explosive doesn't ultimately mean much. Other sea crashes have had similar issues as there is sometimes explosive residue in the water that contaminates the crash. If they didn't find any other signs of an explosion that's probably why they aren't putting much stock in the residue.
    • So many things can cause positive test results for explosives residues from use of guns to simple garden fertilisers, even certain medications and body creams can return positive results due to the ingredients.
  • At first I pooh poohed it; but then I googled iphone fire and did not like what I saw. Unfortunately, I can't google "ipad fire" as it collides with "kindle fire".
  • Hot flaming perfume, ignited by the iPhone, dripping behind the instrument panel.

    How's that for bad haiku?

  • Most airliners are pressurized for around what, 5,000 feet? Could the atmospheric conditions on an aircraft, cause the battery pack to change its shape enough to interfere with the insulation spacers on a battery pack?
  • I enjoyed Flight [imdb.com] with Denzel Washington and this story reminds me a little of the plot.
    If you haven't seen it then it's an eye opener about the game of "passing the buck", and seeing who get's sued when blame is attributed.
    A nice big fat rich company like Apple, tasty...

  • BEA... trying to deflect the possibility that the Airbus window heater failed catastrophically (again). It's a known issue for both Airbus and Boeing.

  • So Samsun can actually say that none of their note 7's has ever brought down a plane, but an Apple iPad or iPhone 6S did.. So now let's start the Apple exploding jokes instead of the Samsung ones..

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