LAS VEGAS/LONDON: Quick action averts disaster as flames and smoke engulf London bound British Ai Boeing 777-200 as it taxied into position for takeoff at Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport.
According to the eye witnesses, flames shot out from the left engine of the aircraft.
Local media reports show that no cause has been determined so far for the fire in the plane’s engine. But it could have been a disaster indeed had not the London-bound plane’s crew and passengers made a hasty and efficient exit down the inflatable evacuation chutes and had firefighters been any less quick in dousing the flames, which erupted from one of the aircraft’s engines.
Chris Jones a spokesperson for the airport told the Associated Press that all 159 passengers and 13 crew members aboard flight 2276 headed for London’s Gatwick Airport made it off the plane.
Fire officials told the news agency that 14 people suffered minor injuries from sliding down the chutes after the fire broke out shortly after 4 p.m. Pacific time.
It was a good thing too. According to NBC, witnesses said the heat was so intense it melted windows on the plane.
By all accounts so far, effectively management of the situation was what prevented it from becoming a tragedy.
A passenger Jacob Steinberg said he was asleep as the plane was taking off. Suddenly it “came to a crashing halt.” There was a “smell of smoke,” and passengers were told to stay seated before the pilot ordered the evacuation.
“They opened the back door and [the slide] went down and smoke started coming” in the plane, “followed by a mad dash to the front. A lot of panic,” he tweeted.
According to the BBC, the plane’s captain called for emergency services: “Speedbird Mayday Mayday. Speedbird 2276 request fire services. Speedbird 2276 heavy. We are evacuating on the runway. We have a fire, repeat, we are evacuating.”
The flight was scheduled to depart at 4:04 p.m. but was still taxiing on the runway when the cre reported at 4:13, Rosemary Vassiladis, the airport’s director of aviation told the Review Journal. The Clark County Fire Department arrived at 4:14 and the fire was extinguished by 4:18, she said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause.
In a statement, British Air said: “Our crew evacuated the aircraft safely and the fire was quickly extinguished by the emergency services at the airport. A small number of customers and our crew have been taken to hospital. All customers have been provided with hotel accommodation, and our colleagues are helping them with anything further they require.”