Australian Transport Safety Bureau Issues E-Cigarette Warning

"The passenger said that the safety switch on the e-cigarette was off. If the timing was even a little different, it could have resulted in a fire on board the aircraft during flight," according to the agency.

E-cigarettes in a passenger's luggage can be a flight safety hazard, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau reported Aug. 7, citing a recent U.S. incident. ATSB is the agency heading the underwater search for the missing MH370 Malaysian Airlines aircraft in the Indian Ocean.

"A recent incident in the United States demonstrates the potential risk after a passenger found her e-cigarette was smouldering and smoking in her handbag after she got off her flight. Walking through the terminal she realised something was wrong and hurried outside to dump her bag. It had generated enough heat to melt several items in her handbag. The passenger said that the safety switch on the e-cigarette was off. If the timing was even a little different, it could have resulted in a fire on board the aircraft during flight," according to its report.

E-cigarettes are considered to be personal electronic devices that must only be carried on aircraft on your person or in your carry-on luggage. Like other lithium battery devices, there is a risk of their catching fire, and ATSB said it has been notified of similar incidents of smoldering items, including mobile phones, tablets, and an air purifier, that passengers brought on board commercial flights in recent years.

Its report says the incident "was reported by a cabin crew member to the United States' Aviation Safety Reporting Scheme (ASRS), a confidential reporting scheme run by NASA. In Australia, the ATSB runs a similar confidential safety reporting scheme called REPCON. Anyone involved in flight operations, and even passengers, can report a safety concern."

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