Damaged BA plane on one engine and trailing smoke from the other, flies right across London for emergency landing at Heathrow
A British Airways flight (BA 762) from Heathrow to Oslo was forced to turn back immediately after take off, due to what is likely to have been bird strike. The Airbus A319 was powered by two IAE V2500 engines. The left engine appears to have hit an object at take-off, which stripped off the engine cowling. The right engine then may have hit something, and there are observer accounts of a bang. The plane did a large loop around London, in order to land again, using only the left engine. Many observers saw, and recorded, the plane – trailing smoke from the right engine, as it flew right across London. The plane made a safe landing, though passengers were evacuated down emergency chutes, and there were only 3 minor injuries. Heathrow airport was disrupted for hours due to the emergency landing. While those in favour of expanding the airport are likely to use this dangerous incident to call for more airport capacity (so Heathrow can cope with incidents without delays) it would be more relevant and more responsible to question how safe it is to have disabled planes flying miles over densely populated London. Luckily this time, there was no crash. With Heathrow airport hoping to get another runway (or two) the safety issue of flying more and more planes over hundreds of thousands of people has to be confronted.
Click map to enlarge. The plane flew miles over highly populated central London and London suburbs, with one engine on fire.
The map above only shows the route from Battersea into Heathrow. Mercifully the damaged plane managed to get to Heathrow. This is not a reassuring day for the hundreds of thousands of Londoners overflown by increasing numbers of planes.
Plane ‘On Fire’ Flying Over Central London
A British Airways plane had to return to Heathrow airport as it made an emergency landing with smoke billowing from the aircraft.
Friday 24 May 2013 (Sky News)
There are also two videos on the page
Video: Witnesses Saw Flames From BA Plane
Video: Emergency Landing: View From Plane
Almost 200 flights have been cancelled at Heathrow after a plane made an emergency landing with flames seen coming from an engine.
A British Airways plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport as eyewitnesses reported seeing the aircraft “on fire” flying over central London.
A man who only gave his first name as Jamie told Sky News: “As you looked up you could just see the flames being chucked out of the engine … It was on full fire when we saw it.”
There have been 186 flight cancellations in total and BA has cancelled all short-haul flights in and out of the West London airport until 4pm.
Passengers are experiencing delays of up to 40 minutes with departures and 25 minutes with arrivals.
Both runways were initially closed as the London Fire Brigade confirmed that they had attended to an “aircraft fire,” but they have since reopened.
The disruption comes at the start of one of the year’s busiest travel periods as people head abroad for the Bank Holiday weekend.
Normand Boivin, Heathrow Chief Operating Officer, said: “The temporary closure will result in a number of cancelled flights throughout the day and passengers are advised to check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport.”
Clive Cook, who lives under the flight path, told Sky News: “The actual engine itself was on fire.
“This plane was coming over and suddenly the tone of the engine changed dramatically, and I could almost say it sounded as if it was like a blowout, or an explosion.”
What happened on the Oslo bound aeroplane is not thought to be terror related and all passengers are safe and well.
Sky News presenter Jeremy Thompson was on a different flight coming into Heathrow and said that the pilot told them that they were being held up by a “bird strike” on a plane.
A statement from British Airways said: “Flight BA762 departed Heathrow at 8.16am and returned at 8.43am due to an engine technical fault. The Airbus A319 aircraft was carrying 75 customers and five crew.
“The aircraft landed safely and cabin crew evacuated customers using emergency slides. Airline colleagues are now caring for customers in the airport terminal.
“The airline has begun a full investigation into the incident and is working with the Air Accident Investigation Bureau to establish the cause.”
Sky’s Richard Suchet added: “Shortly after it was airborne, somebody in air traffic control spotted a fault with one of the engines and alerted the pilot. The pilot then turned round and came back to the airport.”
According to The Aviation Herald, as the plane took off “a loud bang from the left hand engine was heard and the left hand engine’s cowling doors went missing.
“While positioning for a return to Heathrow another loud bang was heard from the right hand engine, and the cowling doors went missing and the engine was trailing smoke.”
Captain Mark Searle, chairman of airline pilots’ association Balpa, congratulated the crew for the way the situation was handled.
He said: “As pilots we spend our whole career training to manage incidents such as this in order to avoid an incident becoming a disaster.”
Images taken from inside the plane show the engine that was not on fire exposed as it is overworked.
Commenting on the damage to the covering around that engine, aviation safety investigator, David Gleave, said: “It’s not got much structural strength in it at all so it doesn’t affect the ability of the aeroplane to actually hold onto its engine and keep it on the wing.”
Remarkable absence of concern about safety of Londoners in media reports of BA plane engine fire
Date added: May 24, 2013
While a BA plane limped back right across London, flying over miles of the city and thousands or hundreds of thousands of Londoners, with one burning engine and the outside of the other damaged – the media seem not even to consider the safety aspects of the story. It seems the cause of the problem could be a technical fault with the plane, rather than a bird strike. The Telegraph writes about the large number of passengers getting away for the bank holiday weekend, and how their flights are delayed. Simon Calder writing in the Independent takes the opportunity of heading his article “Emergency landing at Heathrow sparks further controversy over London airport capacity” though he does have the decency to add one comment from a member of the public in his piece to say that “London is one of the very few cities in the world that has its main flight paths over the city. A very serious accident is not a question of if, but when.”
Pictures taken from inside the plane in today’s incident showed an inspection cover loose on the left-hand engine.
Mr Learmount said: “This cover is to a plane what a bonnet is to a car. It should not have been open. Something caused it to be dislodged.
“Pictures of the plane flying with smoke coming from it indicate that the aircraft was being powered entirely by the left-hand engine. Most likely there was external damage to both engines.
“Damage of this kind is consistent with a bird strike although at this stage we just don’t what happened.”
“As the plane started to gather speed on the runway for take-off, the engine casing came loose and started flapping and at the point of take-off it snapped off with a loud bang,” he added.
“On the descent back into Heathrow the right engine burst into flames, creating an orange glow visible throughout the cabin. People were relatively calm until the engine blew and then started to panic.”
The temporary closure will result in a number of cancelled flights throughout the day, he said. About 1,300 flights take off and land at Heathrow every day.
BA, the airport’s largest airline at Heathrow, said it had cancelled all its short-haul flights to and from Heathrow until 1500 GMT on Friday.
The emergency landing could bring renewed calls for Heathrow to be expanded.
BA’s A319s are powered by two IAE V2500 engines made by the International Aero Engines consortium, part-owned by Pratt & Whitney parent UTC.
Instead of calling for Heathrow to be expanded, a reasonable person might consider there to be calls for Heathrow to be reduced in size. Today a plane, with an engine on fire, travelled – with smoke pouring from its damaged and closed-down engine, many tens of miles around and across London.
The footage of the plane, trailing smoke from the burning engine, and the comment that this could be seen from Battersea. Battersea is about 16 miles from Heathrow.
The plane also flew around London, and right across the whole city from the east, with the burning engine. It will have flown over thousands of people. A crash anywhere along that route would involve ploughing into a huge number of homes, offices etc. This plane just taking off for Oslo would have been full of fuel, so any crash on London would have been disastrous.
Presumably it dumped fuel somewhere outside London, before coming in across London. Otherwise, it was carrying a lot of fuel, as well as having an engine on fire.
Surprising that the media comments on this story are ignoring (deliberately, or from journalists not thinking about it?) the safety implications.
So that’s [at least] two aircraft in the last five years that have struggled in to land at Heathrow:
17th January 2008: Boeing 777, from Beijing, iced-up fuel, just made it over the perimeter before crash-landing; and
24th May 2013: Airbus 319, just taken off for Oslo, possibly bird strike (tbc), port engine failure, & stbd engine fire, managed to turn back and land.
Both came in over densely populated areas while in severe distress.
In the world of safety management these are near-misses. If nothing fundamental changes there will be more. At the risk of stating the obvious, sooner or later one won’t make it.
Since the incident:
Questions asked by London Assembly about the BA plane with a burning engine flying over millions of Londoners
June 1, 2013 Richard Tracey, London Assembly Member for Merton and Wandsworth, has written to Heathrow authorities to ask why the BA aircraft with its engine ablaze was routed to fly back into Heathrow last week rather than being diverted elsewhere. Richard’s questions followed worried enquiries from Wandsworth councillors Rosemary Torrington and James Maddan who represent the riverside Thamesfield ward on the flightpath. He received a prompt response Heathrow’s Government Relations Manager: “The normal procedure in these circumstances if for the Captain to decide what is the safest course of action, and this is what happened in this case. This is an approved procedure.” Richard Tracey commented that the damaged aircraft flew over Slough, Watford, parts of Essex, Battersea, Putney, Chelsea, Fulham, Hammersmith and Hounslow. “This is complete madness. Three or four million people on the ground were put at risk and thousands of travellers from Heathrow had their flights cancelled. Incoming flights were diverted to Stansted, Luton, Cardiff, even Manston”. “We are now seriously considering taking this further , including talks with Heathrow and British Airways.” Click here to view full story…
Heathrow emergency landing of BA plane with engine on fire: Engine cowls had been left unlatched
May 31, 2013 Air accident investigators say the doors on both engines of the BA flight that made an emergency landing at Heathrow last week had been left unlatched. This was due to human error. Air accident experts said the coverings – the fan cowl doors – broke off and punctured the right engine’s fuel pipe, damaging the aircraft’s systems. The engine was extensively damaged. The jet flew back to Heathrow, on one engine, with smoke trailing from the other, right across heavily populated London. It landed safely. The findings were made in an interim report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which is examining the cause of the emergency It will make its final report in a couple of months. The fan cowl doors on both engines were left unlatched during maintenance and this was not identified prior to aircraft departure. BA confirmed that 2 different engineers would normally check whether a plane’s engine covers had been shut before take-off. David Learmount, former pilot: “This is a bit of an accident waiting to happen because it is so difficult to see”. Airbus said there had, in the past, been 32 reported incidents of fan cowl doors not being shut. Click here to view full story…
Remarkable absence of concern about safety of Londoners in media reports of BA plane engine fire
May 24, 2013 While a BA plane limped back right across London, flying over miles of the city and thousands or hundreds of thousands of Londoners, with one burning engine and the outside of the other damaged – the media seem not even to consider the safety aspects of the story. It seems the cause of the problem could be a technical fault with the plane, rather than a bird strike. The Telegraph writes about the large number of passengers getting away for the bank holiday weekend, and how their flights are delayed. Simon Calder writing in the Independent takes the opportunity of heading his article “Emergency landing at Heathrow sparks further controversy over London airport capacity” though he does have the decency to add one comment from a member of the public in his piece to say that “London is one of the very few cities in the world that has its main flight paths over the city. A very serious accident is not a question of if, but when.” Click here to view full story…