Some Entertainment Systems Wiring Problems
and Smoke/Fire Reports


50 Reports from 1988 to 2001.  Last revised 3/15/03  by




     The following is a chronological list and brief summaries to aircraft entertainment systems related events including significant systems failures, smoke and or fires.  This list is by no means intended to represent all such events known but rather is an attempt to focus more clearly on those available.  Those with the dates in Bold are where the entertainment systems were specifically identified.  Those without Bold draw attention to in flight fires where the entertainment systems may or may not have been the cause.  Of course all aircraft systems where designed and certified by the FAA and should not emit smoke or cause fires because proper circuit design expressly is supposed to stop this.  The purpose of circuit breakers is not to protect the equipment but rather to prevent electrical overloads and wire overheating.


     More critical to proper documentation of any such safety problems is the clear understating of  problems expressed through the most commonly used Databases made available to the public via the Internet.   Simply, these FAA Office Of System Safety Databases provided about 10 % of the events posted here compared to direct reports from pilots to the Aviation Safety Reporting  System (ASRS) or from maintenance in the Service Difficulty Reports (SDRs).  These  ratios can be seen as follows;


a.   The FAA Incident Data Reporting System  - 2 Events

b.   NTSB Monthly Reports  -  3 Events

c.   Aviation Safety Reporting System  (ASRS)  -  25 Events

d.  The Service Difficulty Reporting System (SDRs)  -  20 Events

e.  And miscellaneous FAA Tech Reports/Letters  -  3 Events


Some 10 Aviation Safety Reporting System Reports in their full text are given on pages 8 through 16.  The details offer a greater insight into the seriousness of these events. 


4/88. 737, Continental Airlines. On final, a fire in the ceiling continued to burn through insulation blankets and duct insulation. Fire department called. Ref. DOT/FAA/CT-91/2.


4/89. ASRS Rpt # 109801.  Pilot Report. After push back at Fayetteville Regional crew advised of smoke in the cabin. Emergency evacuation followed. 


09/90. ASRS Rpt. # 157942.  Pilot Report (de-identified). Immediately after TO from Cleveland Hopkins, smoke in the cabin, emergency declared and returned..


9/90.  ASRS Rpt. # 157908. Pilot Report  (de-identified).  Left Denver gate, smoke filled cabin. Could not see past 1st class. PA did not work. Emergency evacuation.


6/92. ASRS Rpt. # 214032.  Pilot Report (de-identified). Cabin declared a fire odor and ceiling was hot. Diverted and declared a emergency.


7/92. ASRS Rpt. # 214781. Pilot Report (de-identified). Crew noted sparks, arcing and smoke half way back left side. C/B popped, fire stopped. FAA made 2 inquires..


9/92. ASRS Rpt. # 220716.  Pilot Report (de-identified). At gate, smoke became thicker from behind attendant jump seat with power off. Fire dept called.


11/93. ASRS Rpt. # 256013.  Pilot Report (de-identified). Near St Louis Int’l at 23,000, attendant reported smoke and fumes in cabin. Declared emergency and landed..


11/94  ASRS Rpt. # 288297.  Pilot Report (de-identified). Departed LAX, aft cabin filled with smoke. Declared emergency, diverted. Met by FAA.


5/10/95.  SDR 1995051900313.  B767. During layover found smoke in forward cabin from three shorted wires inside seat track 1C, 2C..  (item 8). (ATA 2330).


8/18/95. SDR 1995082500003. B767. During cruise found wire-bundle arcing along sidewall, seats 2A &3A. Activated a fire extinguisher. (item 20). (ATA 2300).


9/95. ASRS # 315585.  Pilot Report (de-identified). During cruise heavy smoke in the cabin. Emergency divert to Nassau. Claimed FAA Investigation. (Ed note; None found).


9/95.  ASRS # 315585.  Pilot Report  (de-identified). During cruise heavy smoke in the cabin. Emergency divert to Nassau.  Claimed FAA Investigation. (Ed note; None found.)


11/95. ASRS # 322428.  Pilot Report (de-identified). MD-88 cabin advised of smoke alarm and odor in the cabin. Smoke in the cockpit. Returned to Atlanta. Cause unknown.


1/96.  ASRS Rpt. # 325089.   Pilot Report (de-identified). 757 smoke in the cabin. Declared a emergency, landed in San Francisco.


4/26/96. SDR 1996050200380.  DC-10. In flight had smell of hot insulation by rows 14 to 18. Could not duplicate. Return to service. (item 21). (ATA 2170).


5/15/96. SDR 1996052300007.  DC-10. During cruise multiplex system power shorted out and sparked with smoke in the cabin at seats 33DE.   (item 22). (ATA 2330).


5/15/96. SDR 199607110004. 747. Attendant noticed a spark under seat 3B. Fire bottle used to extinguish. Repair to wire. (item 18)  (ATA 2520).


7/28/96. SDR 1996080200439.  767. During cruise wiring at seats 2A and others shorted and burned through. (item 52). (ATA 2520).


8/14/96. SDR 1996082200603.  DC-10. While at cruise, right side of aircraft had strong electrical smell.  Lights were off for the movie. A oxygen generator activated over Row 26-28... (item 28). (ATA 3520).


8/30/96. SDR 1996102400370747. During landing sparks and smoke emited from under seat 31-7. Cable shorted, activated fire extinguisher.  (item 29). (ATA 2520).


12/11/96. NTSB Rpt# CHI97IA041.  757, U.S. Air. Enroute, smoke and fire were visible in the aft floor and side wall area. Emergency and diverted.  Examination of the burned area revealed an Audio-entertainment system cable had become shorted.


3/9/97. SDR 1997031300703.  DC-10. Overhead cabin panels rows 25 to 26 began arcing and smelled smoke. Unable to find cause.. (item 44). (ATA 2520).


3/14/97. SDR 1997032700004.  737. Sparks under seat 9D. Found shorted wires. (item 121). (ATA 2300).


4/28/97. 747-243, G-VGIN.  Arcing Poly-X wires ignite cabin interior materials and destroy wire-bundles behind overhead panels in forward cabin.  Ref, UK AAIB Rpt. # 5/2000 (EW/C98/1/3) Appendix G.


5/97.  ASRS Rpt. # 369599.  Pilot Report (de-identified). 737 had cabin smoke and heat reported. Emergency declared, diverted to alternate.


5/97.  ASRS Rpt. # 370087.  Pilot Report (de-identified). MD-80 at 11,000 feet reported electrical smell in the cabin. Declared an emergency.


6/17/97. NTSB Monthly Rpt. # FTW97IA227.   DC-10, Sun Country Airlines. Smoke in the aircraft. Emergency landing to Denver.  Two crew members hospitalized..


7/28/97. SDR 1997082100422.  747. During cruise had sparks/smoke from seat 23-2. Replaced power cable and electronic unit. (item 58). (ATA 2520).


10/97. ASRS 382946.  Pilot Report (de-identified).  While taxiing cabin reported increasing electrical smoke. C/Bs did not pop. Return to gate.   Next flight, same again.


11/97. ASRS Rpt. # 385050.  767-200ER .  Pilot Report (de-identified).  Had electrical smoke. Declared emergency, returned to the Azores.   Second such diversion/month.


12/19/97. MD-80, Alaska Airlines. Taxiing to gate when cabin filled with smoke. Over wing evacuation to the taxiway. Ref.  “case 4”.


5/30/98.  SDR 1998060500439.  DC-10. After a smoke smell, found decoder harness and wires burnt under seat 22E. 


8/98.  ASRS Rpt. # 344573.  767-300.  Pilot Report (de-identified).  Abeam of Nova Scotia had smoke in the cockpit. Declared emergency, landed overweight at Sydney, N.S.


10/98. ASRS Rpt. # 418250.  Pilot Report (de-identified). DC-10 dumped 85,000 lbs of fuel, declared emergency and diverted after smelling smoke in the cabin.


12/21/98. SDR 1999011500634.  DC-10. Number 1 AC Bus C/Bs popping. Found burned wires in ceiling of forward compartment.. (item 92).  (ATA 2450).


12/22/98. NTSB Rpt. # DCA99WA014.   L-1011, Delta Airlines. Before pushback, a passenger saw smoke and sparks from a sidewall vent. Two wire-bundles burned in the Mid Electrical Center. Wire to wire arcing, dust buildup and lav fluids were noted. A Delta Report said this was the fifth report of lav water, the eleventh report of wire to wire rubbing, the thirteenth report of excessive dirt buildup among Delta’s 35 L-1011s.  (Ed note; no longer at NTSB Monthly).


1/31/99.  NTSB Accident Rpt. DCA99SA037.  MD-11, American Airlines, smoke in the cabin. “Buzz” heard over PA system, C/B reset and then smoke seen in first class.  Emergency declared, diverted to Seattle. Video system damaged, unknown connector failure.


1/99. ASRS Rpt 424550.  Pilot Report (de-identified). During cruise lost all pressurization, smoke in the cabin due to wiring caused electrical smoke. Emergency /divert.


2/13/99. SDR 1999021900341.  MD-11. Inspection found electrical smell at row 13 and found electrical harness shorted out. (item 59). (ATA 2330).


6/22/99.  FAA Incident 19990622018839C.  737, United Airlines. Enroute, smoke in the cabin. Diverted to Scottsbluff.  Unable to find cause, returned to service.  Case Closed.


7/99,  FAA Accident And Incident Rpt # 19990715025299C.  757-0223.  Diverted due to a strange odor in the cabin from the video unit.  File closed.


8/3/99. SDR 1999081400461.  MD-11. Inspection found seat 5G electrically inop.  Found burned wire. (item 78). (ATA 2520).


9/7/99. NTSB NYC99IA231.  MD-88, Delta Airlines. During climb noted smoke in the cabin. Emergency and  diverted. Mylar insulation burned 5 x 5 foot under floor.  No cause. Also reference in NTSB/Garvey letter, 12/15/99.  (Ed note; not in NTSB Monthly).


9/21/99.  SDR 1999100100110.   MD-11. Inspection found sparks and smoke from under seat 11C. Wire-harness  shorted to foot rest.. (item 83).  (ATA 2520).


11/21/99.  SDR 1999120400158.  MD-11. Maintenance found arcing behind seat 13A caused by pinched reading light cable. (item 88). (ATA 3320).


12/26/99, SDR # 200003090002. A-300B4605R,  American. Unscheduled landing. PTY - Flt 917 - during flight electrical buring smell around business class video recorder.  Diverted and landed PTY. without incident.  Repaired chafed wiring.  System ground check normal operation.  replaced video recorder as precaution. (m) (ATA 2397).


1/13/99, SDR # 199904020067.  A-300B4605R. American .  Wiring shorted during cruise. BOS - Flt 121 - en route LGW-BOS - during cruise, the transformer at seat 29G shorted out causing sparks and smoke.  All videos in zone were blank.  Secured system.  Landed BOS without incident.  Replaced wiring harness at seat 29G.  System ground checked normal operation.  (m).

(ATA 2330).


5/99, ASRS Rpt # 439064.  Boeing 767-200.  Smoke and fire from entertainment unit in first class. Red and glowing wires in the center armrest.  Flight diverted .  


7/99, ASRS Rpt # 444019.  Boeing 757-200.  Strong odor of electrical burning in the cabin

7/99, ASRS Rpt # 444683.  Boeing 757-200.  Burning electrical smell around rows 19-22. Hot wire found going into the video recorder.

9/99, ASRS Rpt # 448215.  Boeing 767-300.  Smoke and fumes in the cabin from seat entertainment unit.  


4/00, ASRS Rpt # 469746. Boeing 767-300ER.  Entertainment system overheats causing smoke and fumes aft of the cockpit.  Power switches seemed not to turn the unit off.


5/15/00, SDR # 200007280022, A-300B4605R. American. Unscheduled landing. EINN - Flt 155 - during flight smoke and sparks reported coming from underneath seat in coach class.  Diverted and landed SNN without incident. (m). (ATA 2520).


6/6/00, SDR # 200010120010, A-300B4605R. American.  JFK - Flt 107 - en route LHR-JFK  during cruise at 32,000 feet, strong acrid smell electrical/plastic emanated from business class approx row 6 & 7 seats. (ATA 2330).


12/00, ASRS Rpt # 497032.  A-300.  Declared an emergency due to seat entertainment unit emitting smoke, sparks and flame. Fire bottle was discharged.  Circuit breaker location unknown.


2/12/01, SDR # 200104200012. A-300B4605R. American.  LHR - FLT 108 - EN ROUTE BOS-LHR - passenger reported electrical arcing under seat at 23c.  Shut down system at master  switch. Landed LHR without further incident.  Replaced electronic box at seat 23C.  System ground checked normal operation.  (m) (ATA 2520).


3/01, ASRS Rpt # 506095.  Boeing 757. Diverted because of electrical fumes in the cabin.  All galley and entertainment systems turned off. Flight attendant became ill.

An Airbus IFE Fire

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