Burning Battery Pack Most Likely Caused Virgin Atlantic Flight Emergency Landing

All 217 passengers were safely evacuated from the Virgin Atlantic flight.

On Thursday, Virgin Atlantic Flight 138 had to make an emergency landing into Boston's Logan International Airport, after a passenger's seat caught fire. 

The A330 Airbus had recently taken off from New York's JFK Airport and was heading across the Atlantic to London's Heathrow Airport when a fire erupted in the cabin. 


Luckily, no one was harmed or injured and the plane made the emergency landing safely. 

Battery pack on fire

After an investigation, the Massachusetts State Police reported that the fire was most likely due to an external battery pack nudged between seat cushions catching fire. 

"Preliminary investigation suggests it is a battery pack consistent in appearance with an external phone charger," said the Massachusetts State Police in a statement

No further details were provided. 

Burning Battery Pack Most Likely Caused Virgin Atlantic Flight Emergency Landing
Portable charger. Source: Vasile Cotovanu/Flickr

The airline has clear rules regarding dangerous and restricted items allowed on its aircraft, and Virgin doesn't allow spare ion batteries over 100 watt-hours or up to 160Wh with approval by ground staff, in carry-on luggage. 

External lithium-ion batteries are not allowed in check-in luggage at any time. 

The reason these battery packs are dangerous is the high risk of them catching fire. Any defect can force a battery to overcharge, overheat and explode or catch fire. An incompatible charger can produce too much current and cause them to overheat. 

If, as the report states, this Virgin Atlantic flight's battery pack was wedged between two seats, then it could have easily overheated or been compressed, leading it to burst into flames. 


No one onboard was injured

Luckily, none of the 217 passengers or crew onboard the flight suffered any injuries, with one passenger supposedly declining assistance after a smoke-related complaint. 

The investigation is ongoing and being conducted by, both, the Massachusetts State Police as well as Virgin Atlantic.

Follow Us on

Stay on top of the latest engineering news

Just enter your email and we’ll take care of the rest:

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.