Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Team begins probe into plane emergency: Flybe de Havilland Dash 8-400, G-FLBC, flight BE-130

The aircraft will be examined by an Air Accident Investigation Branch team. ©Pacemaker

Fire crews, police and paramedics attended the scene on Tuesday evening as the Flybe flight, with 76 passengers and four crew on board, prepared to land at Belfast International after the captain declared a full emergency.

Before it was diverted it was heading for Belfast City Airport before the fire broke out in the engine.

The plane landed just before 7pm and passengers evacuated via steps at the front of the plane but some had to jump a distance from the back emergency exit, with the help of fire officers.

No one was injured in the incident but one person required further assessment in hospital.

Passengers told UTV the ordeal was "terrifying and nightmarish".

One passenger was Eddie Spence, who said he remembered a banging noise and a jolt that went through the plane halfway through the journey.

"That was then followed up by three or four further bangs and at that point there was like a sudden loss of power then through one of the engines on the left hand side," he said.

"When I turned to my left I could see the flames coming out of the engine, probably stretched back to five or six rows behind."

A spokesperson for the AAIB said it was aware of the incident and is investigating.

A team from the branch is expected at the airport shortly.

John Palmer, director of operations at Flybe said on Wednesday said the cause of the fire was not yet known.

He added that the crews did an "excellent job" in ensuring the safety of passengers.

"The 2400 is quite a small airplane and the majority of the passengers left by the steps, but we did open one of the rear doors, so that people could exit via the rear door, which is normal operating procedure, and it's standard practice that they take the small jump onto the tarmac," he told the Frank Mitchell Phone-In.

He added: "I've been in this industry some 25 years and fortunately this is a very, very unusual event."

Alan Whiteside, operations manager at Belfast International Airport also praised the crew for the way they handled the emergency.

"It was bad weather and windy as well as having one engine on fire," he said.

"The passengers handled themselves absolutely admirably the whole way through the evacuation."

Responding to concerns over lack of communication with passengers following the evacuation, he added: "The issue in those times immediately after that kind of incident, is getting information you can pass on.

"The engine was actually still burning when the aircraft landed, the fire crews assisted in evacuation to get the passengers away from the aircraft first, and then they continued and applied dry powder and other media to continue to extinguish it.

"From that point on, there are a load of things that need to go through, the AAIB need to advised, you need to get permission from them to be able to do anything with the aircraft."

A statement released from Flybe on Tuesday stressed that "at no time was the safety and well-being of passengers compromised".

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