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Smoking smartphone sparks emergency evacuation of Alaska Airlines jet, two taken to hospital

In battery containment bags we trust

Passengers escaped an Alaska Airlines jet via emergency slides on Monday night after a malfunctioning smartphone filled the cabin with smoke.

The pilot ordered the evacuation of flight 751 from New Orleans to Seattle after someone's cellphone started to spit out sparks and smoke just after landing. As the aircraft was still waiting on the tarmac at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for a gate, the slides were deployed and all 129 passengers and six crew made it out.

The errant mobe was also stuffed in a bag to curb its compact conflagration. Two people, we're told, were taken to hospital.

"The crew acted swiftly using fire extinguishers and a battery containment bag to stop the phone from smoking," a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines told The Register.

"Crew members deployed the evacuation slides due to hazy conditions inside the cabin. Two guests were treated at a local area hospital."

Airport officials, meanwhile, said "only minor scrapes and bruises were reported."

Alaska, along with some other airlines, has carried battery containment bags since 2016 when a rash of exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones showed the aviation world that they'd be useful to have aboard. The FAA banned the handsets from commercial flights and Samsung eventually withdrew the devices at an estimated cost of $2.3bn.

The bags Alaska uses come in two sizes: a smaller one on the flight deck for the pilots' electronics, and a larger bag for the passengers' kit.

The bags can withstand temperatures up to 3,200°F (1,760°C), come with heat resistant gloves to handle a burning device, and can be sealed into an airtight pocket to prevent a fire from getting out of hand and spreading.

Such bags can be a lifesaver if a lithium-ion battery fire breaks out mid-flight, giving the pilot time to find a safe spot to touch down. And as we saw in Seattle on Monday, they can be pretty useful on the ground, too.

Then again, all the heat-resistant bags in the world won't be much use if the aircraft's own batteries catch fire, as Boeing demonstrated with its 787 Dreamliner. ®

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