A United Airlines flight bound for Newark Airport in New Jersey was forced to return to San Diego Airport after a fire broke out in the cabin, caused by a passenger’s laptop battery bursting into flames.
Four flight attendants working in the cabin of the Boeing 737 on United 2664 prevented the blaze from spreading further as they put out the flames with on-board fire extinguishers.
Their heroic efforts led to them breathing in smoke as they put out the fire. The four were taken to hospital for treatment following the emergency landing on Tuesday.
It is not clear what caused the battery to ignite just after the flight, with 159 passengers, took off at 7:15am. Just 11 minutes later, the plane was back on the ground.
A United Airlines flight bound for Newark had to return to San Diego due to a cabin fire caused by an external battery. Fire engines could be seen parked at the side of the aircraft
The fire was contained by the flight crew but saw the four flight attendants taken to hospital after breathing in smoke. Pictured, ambulances can be seen on site on Tuesday morning
Emergency services raced to the scene following a fire onboard a flight from San Diego
The situation would have been all the more perilous had the battery pack been within checked baggage and not in the main cabin.
‘Shortly after departure, the aircraft declared an Alert 2 which indicates a major difficulty with the aircraft, in this case there was an electrical device fire in the cabin.
‘The aircraft landed safely at San Diego International Airport where emergency crews responded to the aircraft and assisted passengers,’ a statement from San Diego Airport read.
A passenger on board the flight, Caroline Lipinski, saw everything happen from her seat.
‘There was a gentleman whose bag was smoking and he threw something out on the ground. It was a battery charger or a pack from his laptop and it burst into flames.’
‘There was a gentleman whose bag was smoking and he threw something out on the ground. It was a battery charger or a pack from his laptop and it burst into flames,’ said Caroline Lipinski
‘Some were gasping, screaming. The guy next to me ran to the back of the plane. The flight attendants were grabbing fire extinguishers and running to the front,’ Stephan Jones said
‘I heard somebody yell “fire” I looked forward and could see the glow,’ said another traveller
The flight was back on the ground 11 minutes after taking off from San Diego as fire broke out
‘I heard somebody yell “fire” I looked forward and could see the glow,’ said another traveler.
Fellow passenger Stephan Jones said people immediately panicked.
‘Some were gasping, screaming. The guy next to me ran to the back of the plane. The flight attendants were grabbing fire extinguishers and running to the front,’ he told CBS News.
Since 2006 there have been 414 incidents of lithium batteries catching fire or overheating – 49 involving laptops.
The scare is just the latest in a series of terrifying scare affecting planes in recent weeks.
The tip of the Orlando-bound aircraft’s wing was torn off by the collision at Newark Liberty International Airport
On Friday, two United Airlines planes clipped wings on the tarmac at Newark Airport as one aircraft was being pushed back.
The Boeing 757 bound for Orlando, Florida, was struck by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The pilot announced to passengers: ‘Obviously, our wing has been clipped.’
The Federal Aviation Authority is investigating the incident.
It came one day before a near-catastrophic incident in Austin on Saturday when a FedEx cargo flight came within less than 100ft of colliding with a Southwest Airlines passenger jet.
Last month, another terrifying near miss at JFK is fueling concerns about an ‘alarming’ increase in such incidents at airports in the U.S.
During the Newark wing clipping incident, United 2135 to Orlando was parked at its gate when the larger plane, which had recently arrived from Johannesburg in South Africa, struck the wing.
Fire crews who responded to the incident were seen carrying away the broken wing tip
A Boeing 757 bound for Orlando, Florida, was struck by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday
The journey from Newark to Orlando was delayed by several hours until a replacement aircraft was arranged
The Orlando-bound aircraft had just returned to the gate because of a maintenance issue, passenger Rebecca Blum said.
She said she felt a ‘jolt [then] looked outside and saw as clear as day the wing of a larger plane had clipped our wing. Definitely heard it. Felt it mildly I would say, but more the noise. I think we were thinking, what was that?’
Passengers were able to disembark safely before another plane was arranged a couple of hours later, at around 11.40am.
The FAA said: ‘The United Flight 2135 was struck by a Boeing 787, a Dreamliner, that arrived from Johannesburg, South Africa earlier in the morning. The much larger plane was being relocated by a tug when it made contact with the smaller Boeing 757, parked at the gate.’
Photos of the damage show the tip of the wing on one aircraft was torn off by the collision. Port Authority police and fire department crews were seen carrying away the broken piece of wing.
The incident at Newark happened hours before a near miss in Austin. A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737, in yellow, had remained on the runway as a FedEx Boeing 767, in orange, had been cleared to land
Less than 24 hours later, on Saturday morning, a FedEx freight plane came within less than 100 feet of a Southwest commercial flight with 128 people on board during another near miss in Austin.
Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, revealed on Monday that the planes narrowly avoided a disastrous collision.
The Boeing 767 FedEx flight was approaching the runway in conditions of poor visibility while a Southwest Boeing 737 had been cleared for takeoff on the same runway.
The FedEx flight was about three miles from the airport when it was cleared to land, according to the FAA.
But as it was about to touch down, an air traffic controller also gave the go-ahead for the Southwest Boeing 737 to take off on the exact same stretch of tarmac.
The Southwest flight to Cancun, Mexico still continued its takeoff even while the FedEx cargo plane was directly above it.
The Southwest jet was able to depart safely and the FedEx plane also landed without any further incidents.
It follows a similar near miss at JFK Airport in New York City in January when a Delta flight was forced to perform an emergency stop during takeoff while an American Airlines Boeing 777 plane crossed the same runway.
The Delta plane stopped about 1,000 feet from where the American Airlines plane had crossed from an adjacent taxiway.
In another near miss at JFK on January 13, a Delta aircraft which was about to take off had to perform an emergency stop after an American Airlines plane crossed onto the runway