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Old Oct 12, 15, 6:05 pm   #46
  
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Alaska airlines credit card readers cause fire

An AS flight from Newark to SEA this morning made SN emergency landing in buffalo fuel to fire caused on the new credit card readers and their lithium batteries.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/S....html?mobile=y

Alaska says they are reverting to the old readers.
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Old Oct 12, 15, 6:22 pm   #47
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Wow thanks for all the live updates

And yes awesome you're on the inaugural BUF AS flight
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Old Oct 12, 15, 6:22 pm   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djp98374 View Post
An AS flight from Newark to SEA this morning made SN emergency landing in buffalo fuel to fire caused on the new credit card readers and their lithium batteries.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/S....html?mobile=y

Alaska says they are reverting to the old readers.
I've merged your post into the existing thread on the topic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VibeGuy View Post
This is, at best, a near miss. The difference between a Li+ battery that is smoking and one that is about to release thermal and chemical energy equal to 10X its weight in gasoline is truly the smallest of margins. There is *no* thermal runaway condition in a lithium battery that is minor in any way, and had it actually caught fire, we would presumably be discussing a very different outcome for the flight, as discharging every fire extinguisher onboard a 737 would not extinguish most Li+ battery fires.

The problem is (rarely) the OEM batteries in the device itself. The problem is the engineering quality of the "sleds", where who knows what brand of battery was used, or if the supply chain of the entire battery subsystem was legit.

Moral to the story: where there is "smoke", the risk of fire rapidly approaches 100%, and there is very little chance of successfully quenching a lithium battery full-on fire in the passenger compartment while at altitude.
All this talk about flames? Apparently some folks missed the memo that FlyerTalk is a flame-free zone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnmist View Post
Thanks for the rescue flight link (how does one find this sort of thing for my future knowledge?)!
The three best sources (IMHO) for airline tracking information are:

FlightAware.com
FlightStats.com
FlightRadar24.com

FlightAware is probably the most user-friendly and flexible. FlightStats is slightly superior (IMHO) because unlike FlightAware, which only sources arrival/departure information from the FAA, they also get data from the airline reservation systems themselves, so they are a little more ahead of the game in the event of delays and departures. FlightRadar24 is the prettiest and has the nicest maps, but it only works with planes already in the air (a flight won't show up if it hasn't departed yet).

Regardless, all three allow you to search for flights by city pair, so all you have to do is go to one and search for a flight departing SEA and arriving in BUF (a guess, but a good guess because SEA is AS's major hub and the most likely place they would send an aircraft from).

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnmist View Post
Sadly the elite line says they can't change anything because the tickets are in a "used" status.
One of my complaints about AS is that their phone agents are often useless in the event of IRROPS. On UA (and, my understanding, also on AA and DL), phone agents can do anything airport agents can do. On AS, there is a clear line between reservations agents, who can only handle advance reservations, and airport agents, who can handle day-of-departure stuff. It's very common on the other airlines to go to a club or call the airline to resolve issues; with AS, these options aren't usually available, and so you often find yourself waiting in long lines to work with airport CSRs. (Once in ANC I even was asked to leave security to fix my issue because there were no airside CSRs!)

Last edited by jackal; Oct 12, 15 at 6:39 pm
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Old Oct 12, 15, 7:22 pm   #49
  
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Originally Posted by missydarlin View Post
But do we even know at this point that it was the battery or the sleds that was smoking? While the thread title mentions the battery specifically, all we know for sure (unless I missed something) is that the device overheated and smoke emanated from some part of the iPhone/card reader dock.
There's nothing else in there that can ignite or offgas like that.

The two options are the primary battery in the device or the booster battery in the sled. No other component failure could cause that scale of issue. If an electrolytic capacitor vented, about the worst that could happen is that the device would stop working and if you were *right there* you might smell "hot electronics". The other factor is "circuit protection" - because shorting a lithium ion battery (causing it to discharge rapidly) is such an issue (fire, nasty fumes, death and property damage), various circuits in the devices will monitor power flow, and if the safe limit is exceeded for even a moment, the device power is shut down.

The batteries have protection in them too. They are the last line of defense in a battery failure. My suspicion is that a failure condition caused this primary circuit protection to go off and vent the fumes. Totally worked as designed.

The problem is that two interconnected failures can happen simultaneously. The edge between "managed failure" and "catastrophe" is razor thin.

The device manufacturers with big consumer businesses are extremely aware of these risks and do amazing engineering to prevent them - if 1 out of 25,000,000 iPhones had catastrophic early-life battery failures, the new 6s/6+s could have already killed or severely burnt someone - they have a lot at stake here. The sled people, bright as they are, are not battery pack design experts selling tens of millions of them into the global marketplace and they will always be riskier.

When Lithium was the hot new thing in battery packs for laptops in 1994, I was in an lab space at a major computer company when a pack cooked off. It burned through a 1.5" thick tabletop in an astonishingly short period of time and ABC, CO2 and Halon extinguishers were useless. I have been less fearful for my life in earthquakes, hurricanes and Black Friday sales. The battery in a modern phone is roughly about a quarter the energy as one would find in a a laptop that set a Formica-covered table ablaze.

Last edited by VibeGuy; Oct 12, 15 at 7:38 pm
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Old Oct 12, 15, 7:59 pm   #50
  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VibeGuy View Post
There's nothing else in there that can ignite or offgas like that.
Maybe the FAs were busier than normal and swiping credits cards extra fast. With enough friction...
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Old Oct 12, 15, 10:37 pm   #51
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Ooof just made it into Seattle... So tired but have more info.

The sled/battery pack is the part that started smoking however the entire phone plus sled system was provided by Apple. Apple did an immediate recall today as soon as the incident was reported. I had only seen the system once on my outbound AS flight earlier this week so I can't be sure but I suspect the system might be similar/the same as the setup used by employees at Apple stores to do POS around the stores. Alaska has reverted to the old POS system.

On our flight we did indeed get free drinks and food for all pax.

AS sent two reps from Seattle to BUF on the rescue flight. One was a regular agent or similar but one was actually a ground services manager (not sure of official title). Since AS didn't have any presence in BUF my understanding is that that guy essentially served to do all the safety checks on the plane, check catering loading, verify fuel "white bucket test" since it was from an unknown source, etc.

Also turns out there's a possibility I might get miles from both the original and rescue flight according to gossip from the AS folks! Depends on how the computer system resolved things.

And when I landed I had my $500 flight waiting for me.

Now waiting for husband to pick me up so I can get home to crash.
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Old Oct 13, 15, 9:26 pm   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnmist View Post
Ooof just made it into Seattle... So tired but have more info.

The sled/battery pack is the part that started smoking however the entire phone plus sled system was provided by Apple. Apple did an immediate recall today as soon as the incident was reported. I had only seen the system once on my outbound AS flight earlier this week so I can't be sure but I suspect the system might be similar/the same as the setup used by employees at Apple stores to do POS around the stores. Alaska has reverted to the old POS system.

On our flight we did indeed get free drinks and food for all pax.

AS sent two reps from Seattle to BUF on the rescue flight. One was a regular agent or similar but one was actually a ground services manager (not sure of official title). Since AS didn't have any presence in BUF my understanding is that that guy essentially served to do all the safety checks on the plane, check catering loading, verify fuel "white bucket test" since it was from an unknown source, etc.

Also turns out there's a possibility I might get miles from both the original and rescue flight according to gossip from the AS folks! Depends on how the computer system resolved things.

And when I landed I had my $500 flight waiting for me.

Now waiting for husband to pick me up so I can get home to crash.
Good to hear with the exception of the longer day all turned out well and thanks for all the updates.

A couple of weeks ago on a flight into JNU we had an emergency landing due to an gear indicator light. Our approach included an extra safety briefing, the brace command just prior to landing and fire trucks waiting for us on an uneventful landing. The next day in my inbox was an e-mail and travel voucher.
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