Lufthansa Flight LH457 took off from Los Angeles International Airport at 15:26 and headed for Frankfurt, but was forced to make an emergency landing in Chicago about five hours after takeoff.
The Boeing 747–8 returning from mothballing deviated from its usual route and headed towards Chicago, where it was first “asked” jettison fuel, and then finally cleared to land.
A Lufthansa spokesman said the pilots made an unscheduled stop at Chicago O'Hare Airport as a “precautionary measure” after the fire was extinguished.
“Safety on board was not compromised for a second,” — the airline said. “No passengers on board were injured, but two flight attendants received medical attention on the spot due to smoke inhalation.”
“Lufthansa ground personnel are currently assisting passengers and they will be transferred to other flights. Lufthansa regrets the inconvenience caused to passengers. The safety of passengers and crew is always paramount, — stated in the carrier's statement.
The incident comes just days after a JetBlue flight from Barbados was evacuated from a parking lot at New York's Kennedy Airport. A passenger's laptop overheated and began to smoke just as the Airbus A320 pulled up to the boarding bridge.
Seven passengers suffered minor injuries in this incident on Christmas Eve after emergency slides were deployed to evacuate. None of the 133 passengers on board were seriously injured.
The laptops are powered by lithium batteries, which are prone to overheating. This is a potential fire hazard.
Thermal runaway — this is a chain reaction in which the temperature inside the battery rises very quickly, reaching 2 000 degrees. The battery gives off a lot of smoke, sparks and fire. At this point, the battery is very difficult to extinguish.
Laptop battery fires are sometimes blamed on cheap power cords, but sudden accidental damage is also a major risk factor. Airlines are reporting an increase in lithium battery fires caused by passenger electronic devices getting stuck in seat mechanisms.