On a recent flight, I heard a (somewhat unsettling announcement) from the flight attendant (paraphrasing from memory):

Dear passengers, if you currently have a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 device in your possesion, we kindly ask that you turn your device off completely and make no attempt to charge your device while in flight. If you see or smell smoke or hear unusual noise coming out of your device, alert a member of our staff immediately.

(at the time, I had no idea what this is about, but apparently the device was recalled due to a faulty battery)

I'm curious at this point, in the unlikely event of a (normally-safe) device like this displaying symptoms of imminent fire or explosion hazard, how would the staff react after being alerted of it? Is there a standard procedure for something like this?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ On a flight where a Galaxy Note 7 caught fire, the flight attendants used fire extinguishers on it and dumped it in a bucket of water for the remainder of the flight. Using water on a lithium fire isn't a course of action I would have guessed to be appropriate but that's what they are reported as doing. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2016 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ I have edited the title question to reflect the actual question posed by the OP, since the original title question, Is there a procedure to safely handle a dangerous object on a commercial flight? is properly answered by FAA regulations 14 CFR 135, Subpart K and 14 CFR 121, Subpart Z, etc. and the equivelant regulations by jurisdiction. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Sep 26, 2016 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ taking into account a "unlikely event of a (normally-safe) device" is one reason explaining the current safety level of commercial airlines operations. I'm quite confident many unlikely events could be handled by specific safety procedures included in flight attendant formation. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Sep 26, 2016 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ As a curiosity - I had heard NOTHING of the "worldwide news!" about this Samsung device, and I was interested to hear the announcements on getting on some flights: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/79368/… $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Sep 26, 2016 at 14:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RedGrittyBrick: the problems with lithium batteries is thermal runaway, and what is burning is usually the electrolyte, so a big load of water for cooling it down is quite appropriate, as the water doesn't come into contact with large surfaces of lithum easily in that situation. $\endgroup$
    – PlasmaHH
    Sep 26, 2016 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


FAA Advisory Circular 120-80A contains recommended crew member procedures and training for combating in-flight fires. It has information about causes, indications and procedures of in-flight fire fighting. According to the AC,

Upon discovering a fire, the initial focus should be on aggressively extinguishing the fire with a readily available extinguisher (which will likely be halon), but do not use water if it is believed the fire is of aircraft electrical system origin. Generally, you should consider using the first available extinguisher rather than delaying your firefighting efforts while you locate a particular extinguishing agent for a class A, B, or C fire.

Airbus Flight Operations Briefing Notes- Managing In-Flight Fires also says pretty much the same thing:

Any fire, no matter how small, may rapidly become out of control, if not dealt with quickly.The first priority will always be to put it out.

Coming to the Galaxy Note 7 issue, the AC says,

h. What are the Recommended Procedures for Fighting a Lithium Battery Fire? The following procedures are recommended for fighting a fire in a lithium-type-battery-powered PED. The procedures consist of two phases: extinguishing the fire, and cooling the remaining cells to stop thermal runaway.

(1) Utilize a halon, halon replacement, or water extinguisher to extinguish the fire and prevent its spread to additional flammable materials.

(2) After extinguishing the fire, douse the device with water, an aqueous-based extinguishing agent, or other nonalcoholic liquids to cool the device and prevent additional battery cells from reaching thermal runaway.

Though the standard procedures in case of a fire has to be decided by the company, the FAA recommends some procedures to be followed, like:

• Be aggressive; if flames are visible, fight the fire immediately.

• Someone must immediately notify the flight crew to describe the fire, smoke, smells, action being taken, etc.

• If flames are not visible, find the base or source of the smoke.

• Pull circuit breakers, in applicable area.

• Do not reset circuit breakers, unless instructed by flight crew.

• Relocate passengers as necessary.

• Locate hot spots using the back of your hand.

• Don PBE (not necessarily in this order).

The flight crew (who are supposed to don their oxygen masks on indication of smoke/fire) are supposed to inform the ATC and plan for an emergency landing, if necessary.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This answer would be better if the acronym "PBE" was explained. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Sep 26, 2016 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ In context, that's probably Personal Breathing Equipment. $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    Sep 26, 2016 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ There is plenty of incidents (and some reports of recommendations being published) to be found on AvHerald. Always handled as outlined above and so far without serious injury. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Oct 3, 2016 at 18:58

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