Remarkable absence of concern about safety of Londoners in media reports of BA plane engine fire
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.”
Heathrow fire: weekend breaks hit by flight emergency
Thousands of families have had their bank holiday break ruined after being stranded at Heathrow following the emergency landing of a British Airways airbus.
By David Millward, Transport Editor (Telegraph)
24 May 2013
The airport was forced to cancel 193 flights on one of the busiest days of the year after closing both its runways when the service to Oslo turned back following an engine fire.
Heathrow was due to handle 225,000 passengers, about 35,000 more than normal. Its operation was thrown into disarray by the shutting down of the southern runway, which was used for departures from 8.24 to shortly after 9 am.
The northern runway, which was handling arrivals was closed from 8.43 until 10.38 am.
While the closures were comparatively brief they had a devastating impact on Heathrow’s operation.
British Airways cancelled all short-haul flights until 4pm in an attempt to contain the chaos and enable it to salvage its operation for the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend.
Thousands of passengers milled around the terminals trying to find alternative flights. With many services full, hopes of a short getaway were dashed.
Three people who had been on the plane were treated for minor injuries after it was forced to return to Heathrow shortly after taking off, after what a British Airways spokesperson said was a ‘technical fault.’
A number of eyewitnesses reported seeing smoke billowing from the back of the plane. Clive Cook was walking with his daughter and saw the plane crossing the Thames near Battersea Bridge. He told Sky News: “I looked up and saw the plane coming through the clouds and the right engine was on fire. It wasn’t smoking, it was on fire.
“This plane was coming over and suddenly the tone of the engine changed dramatically. I can almost say it sounded like it was a blow-out or an explosion.”
British Airways said two pilots and three crew members had been on board the flight, which took off from Heathrow at about 8.16am.
They said they could not confirm the cause of the incident and that the Air Accident Investigation Branch at British Airways would now be conducting a full investigation.
Emergency landing at Heathrow sparks further controversy over London airport capacity
The southern runway was temporarily closed as fire crews took up position ready for an emergency landing on the northern runway. The aircraft landed at 8.43am, and came to a halt on the runway facing into the wind – normal practice to reduce fire risks. The evacuation was carried out quickly and safely. Mark Freeman, the duty manager at Heathrow, praised the emergency services and BA “for their calm professionalism in assisting passengers and making the aircraft safe”.
The northern runway remained closed for almost two hours, causing widespread delays. More than 20 incoming flights were diverted to other UK airports – many to Gatwick, Luton or Stansted, but others to Cardiff, Bournemouth and Manston in Kent.
Around 200 flights to and from Heathrow were cancelled in the wake of the incident. All British Airways services to domestic and European destinations up to 4pm were axed, while Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic also cancelled flights.
A party of 100 schoolchildren from Newcastle planning to fly to Rome for a holiday last night returned by bus to Tyneside. Charlotte Wathey, a parent, said, “Shame on BA for cancelling completely rather than flying late to Rome. You would think that with a party of that size, BA would have made every effort to get them away late, rather than not at all.” BA told passengers: “These cancellations will help us to stabilise our schedule, allowing us to get as many customers away as possible in these difficult circumstances”.
Passengers on flights that did operate faced delays of up to four hours. Eurocontrol in Brussels tweeted that users of Heathrow should “expect heavy delays all today”. Disruption continued into the evening, with later services to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Geneva cancelled.
The incident happened at the start of one of the busiest weekends of the year, the start of half-term for many families. British Airways had planned to carry close to half a million passengers between Friday and Monday, but many of the 128,000 expecting to travel yesterday saw their planes grounded. Passengers whose flights are cancelled go to the back of the queue to be re-booked on the next available flight. The emergency added impetus to the debate over airport capacity in South-east England, partly from those calling for extra capacity to reduce disruption.
Laurie Price, an advisor to the All-Party Aviation Group, said: “All BA short-haul services cancelled till 4pm due to one incident is absurd. Heathrow just has no resilience.”
One comment on The Independent’s website read: “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.”
In a separate incident, a Pakistan International flight from Lahore to Manchester was given an RAF fighter escort after two passengers were reported to have made threats to the purser. The Boeing 777, with 297 people on board, was diverted to Stansted – the airport designated for handling suspected terrorist incidents. The aircraft landed safely at the Essex airport, where two men were arrested.
The Financial Times says:
Heathrow runway closed by emergency landing
By Andrew Parker and Hannah Kuchler
More than 200 flights were cancelled, including 25% of BA’s schedule ….
….. As a result of the runway disruption, BA cancelled about 170 outbound and inbound short-haul flights to domestic and European destinations. Heathrow deals with 1,300 inbound and outbound flights each day, including 670 operated by British Airways.
Also Evening Standard at
Investigators probe British Airways jet after emergency landing at Heathrow
Air accident investigators were probing an emergency landing by a British Airways passenger jet at Heathrow amid reports that a technical fault in the aircraft could be to blame.
Seventy five passengers and five crew were evacuated safely from Flight BA762 to Oslo, Norway, after it returned to the London hub with one engine on fire.
It was reported that vibrations and whistling noises were heard in the cabin during a flight made by the aircraft to Heathrow from Stavanger, also in Norway, on Thursday evening.
A British Airways spokesman said today: “While the aircraft is the subject of an AAIB investigation it would be inappropriate to discuss the previous technical status of this plane.”
……. Both runways at Heathrow were shut for a time after the incident and although they re-opened later, BA cancelled all short-haul flights until 4pm – affecting the travel plans of thousands of people flying off for the bank holiday weekend and school half-term holidays.
A full report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) could be some time away, but the branch could publish an interim report laying out the basic facts quite soon.
The AAIB will take into account not only crew, passenger and eyewitness statements but also data from the flight recorder.
Investigators will look into reports that part of the left-hand engine casing, which was shown to be off after the plane landed, actually detached on take-off.
The two pilots completed the landing on Friday after passengers described how “big flames” were seen coming from the right-hand engine.
The flight had left Heathrow at about 8.16am and had returned to the west London airport shortly after 8.40am.
A picture taken from inside the plane also showed an engine cover on the left-hand engine had come loose, indicating that that engine, too, had been damaged, which could also have affected the other engine.
Birdstrike has also been suggested as a possible cause of the crash.