Airborne iPhone fire caused by loose screw

Airborne iPhone fire caused by loose screw

Summary: An Australian investigation revealed that a misplaced screw caused a short circuit that led to the fire.


An investigation into an Apple iPhone that started spewing black smoke on a Regional Express (REX) flight last year has revealed the reason for the incident, and led to renewed warnings about the carriage of lithium batteries onto planes.

Flight crew on a trip from Lismore to Sydney last November noticed that black smoke had begun erupting from an iPhone, which had to be quickly put out with a fire extinguisher.

The phone was sent to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) as part of an investigation into the matter, which has now revealed that a misplaced screw punctured the battery casing, leading to a short circuit that caused the battery to overheat.

The screw that caused the issue was the result of a botched screen-replacement job from a non-authorized service center.

For more on this story, read Airborne, smoking iPhone mishap solved on ZDNet Australia.

Image credit: REX, ATSB

Topics: Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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  • Important fact needs to not be overlooked

    "[i]The screw that caused the issue was the result of a botched screen-replacement job from a non-authorized service center. [/i]"

    With all the Apple-bashing going on recently, unfortunately this key fact will probably be overlooked.
    • Agreed

      I'm no Apple fan, but put the blame where it should be, on the unauthorized repairshop.
      • Agreed 2

        This is no fault of Apple and that should be made clear in the title.
    • Important fact needs to not be overlooked shouldn't have to send the phone to an authorized dealer. This is poor design. Batteries aren't perfect so one shouldn't have to pay shipping and a dealer to install such a simple piece of hardware. Apple does this knowing that there are a lot of fools out there who will buy a new device instead of dealing with the hassle. I have some friends like that and I laugh when they tell me they are on their 3rd or 4th wonder those sales numbers look so good. How many of these are people buying the same POS phone! I've been rocking my Windows Phone for 1 year with ZERO problems and guess what? I can replace my battery if I need to! BOOM!
      • Screen not battery...

        If you drop the phone and the glass breaks, it should be repaired by somebody competent...
      • Nothing overlooked

        You think Apples sales figures look so good because you supposedly know some people that can't keep from breaking their phones and just buy new ones, talk about an idiotic statement. Your little rant has absolutely nothing to do with this story. If the person had sent it to Apple for repair and the same happened then this would be Apple's fault but that is not the case. This story really has nothing to do with Apple other than it was an iPhone.

        Are we supposed to be impressed with your experience with your Windows Phone? I have been "rocking" iPhones since 2007 with ZERO problems and guess what, I have yet to need to change a battery! BOOM!
  • Apple's warnings aren't made out of greed!

    The owner is at fault! Apple warns against using cheap repair shops for good reason!
  • Yes, but...

    It is also partly a result of poor phone design, where the battery is not user replaceable. If the battery could be replaced by the owner, there would be no need to go to an unauthorized repair ship at all.
    • Yes, but...

      It had nothing to do with a replaceable battery. It was a screen replacement done by an unauthorized repair shop.
    • What does the battery have to do

      with a screen replacement job?

      [b]The screw that caused the issue was the result of a botched screen-replacement job from a non-authorized service center.[/b]

      The lack of a removable battery is irrelevant to this issue.
    • It's NOT a Battery issue, people.

      It had nothing to do with getting a new battery. It was a screen replacement. I wish people would read the article correctly before making off the wall comments with nothing to do about the original article.
    • What?

      The issue came from a screen repair and has absolutely nothing to do with user replacable batteries. Did you even read the story or did you just jump to that tired old talking point?
  • Not about battery replacement..

    This problem was caused by bad workmanship during a SCREEN replacement.
    Bad workmanship can happen .. any time... any where. The concern is having Lithium batteries being transported in a passenger aircraft.
    Stay on point!.. this isn't limited to iPhones or Apple products.

    As to Apple design:
    Anyone paying attention during the purchase of a complex product needs to balance many concerns about a given product. In the observations being made, battery replacement is one of them.

    Apple's business model is based on (trying to) control EVERYTHING about the user's experience related to their product(s).. software, hardware, maintenance of the product and even recovery of the product once no longer wanted/usable.

    This is Apple's greatest strength (relieving the user of choice/risk , maximizing control of quality) and their greatest weakness (again, limiting the user of choice/limiting innovation to the standards they set .... and limiting exposure to sub-standard batteries or workmanship as in this example )

    Nearly every product has some form of compromise in it.
    Pick your poison....

    and referencing the fire to "iPhone" in the title.. is just "click bait" (which worked)
  • It can happen even if..

    Apple did the repair. The battery design is fine but the repair wasn't. Didn't the technician notice the bulge on the back cover when he replaced the back cover? As they say, doing it cheap comes out more expensive.
  • Lithium Batteries

    This led to a warning about carrying lithium batteries on board planes. Between my wife and myself , we carry on some 8 to 10 rechargeable batteries on each flight. Anytime someone does something stupid on a plane , we all get punished. Fortunately this has not led to a banishment of batteries on planes. The bad guys haven't been able to weaponize the Iphone yet.
  • The worry is the luggage hold...

    I'm more worried about battery fires in the hidden luggage hold. We've seen cabin fires start from entertainment system wiring, and a cabin fire can de deadly in itself, but at least you can see it... a fire in the hold may be more dangerous.

    Batteries, and Sony again... but it's likely to apply to anything that stores that much energy in that much space.