Laptop fire forces JetBlue flight to make emergency landing

Just the latest in a string of such incidents, FAA reports

A JetBlue flight from New York's JFK Airport to San Francisco made an emergency landing in Grand Rapids, Michigan after a laptop stored in a carry-on bag exploded and caught fire.

The plane landing without incident and there were no injuries, according to the airline.

Officials at Gerald R. Ford Airport told WZZM-TV Flight 915 refueled and took off again for San Francisco and the flight was completed without further incident.

The scare draws new attention to the potential hazards of lithium ion batteries on an aircraft at 30,000 feet. It comes as the Trump administration is considering a ban on laptops aboard all commercial aircraft coming in and out of the country. But the ban is being considered as a way to mitigate the threat of terrorism, not as a way to prevent accidents.

Samsung Note 7 ban

Last year when the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone triggered a number of similar explosions and fires, resulting in its recall, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned the phone from all commercial flights, fearing some consumers would continue using their phones, despite the danger.

The FAA reports that as of May 22, 2017, there have been at least 160 incidents in the air or at an airport involving lithium batteries since March 20, 1991. In an incident report from May 2, the FAA says a shipment of 13 laptop computers in a cargo facility was bumped, causing one box to fall to the ground.

"Upon impact, the box began to smoke and apparently produced a dangerous evolution of heat," the FAA wrote. "The box and the laptop inside were charred and partially melted. The box contained a laptop computer with a 94 watt-hour lithium-ion battery installed in it."

Eight incidents in fewer than two month

According to the FAA report, there have been at least eight lithium ion battery incidents -- either airborne or at an airport -- between April 4 and May 31.

Lithium ion batteries are prone to overheating because they contain a liquid in their core. When demands are placed on the battery -- by apps or other factors -- the liquid can overheat, producing a fire and explosion.

While ConsumerAffairs has reported on numerous incidents over the years in which laptop computers have caught fire and destroyed vehicles -- and even homes -- the issue is of particular concern when an incident occurs aboard a commercial jet that's in the air.

In 2015, aircraft manufacturer Boeing issued a formal warning to its customers, urging them to stop accepting large shipments of lithium batteries until safer packaging and fire protection efforts can be worked out.

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