LONDON (Reuters) - A British Airways plane with 80 people on board made an emergency landing at London’s Heathrow airport on Friday after the right engine burst into flames shortly after take-off and the casing ripped away from the left.
The British carrier, part of IAG, said all 75 passengers and five crew members were safe after having been evacuated from the aircraft down emergency chutes on landing.
Video footage taken on board the plane as it came into land revealed the silver internal components of the engine.
Flight BA 762 from Heathrow to Oslo was forced to turn back due to what BA called a “technical fault”. The Airbus A319 was powered by two IAE V2500 engines.
BA has started an investigation into the incident along with the Air Accident Investigation Bureau but said it had yet to determine the nature of the problem.
Jon Chaplin, a director of Norweigan firm TradeWinds, who was aboard the flight, said the casing of the left engine started to come away during take off and that the right engine exploded as the plane was coming into land.
“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.”
Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, closed both its runways to deal with the matter. They have now reopened but the incident is likely to lead to the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Heathrow, which operates at close to full capacity.
The incident will likely cause disruption for families getting away over the school half-term holiday, which starts on Monday. Britain also has a public holiday on Monday, adding to the number of travellers using Heathrow.
“We were able to reopen the northern runway within two hours of the incident and we are now focused on returning the airport to normal as quickly as possible,” Heathrow’s duty manager Mark Freeman said.
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. The coalition government blocked the construction of a third runway in 2010 because of environmental concerns.
A spokesman for the London fire brigade said its crews extinguished the fire quickly.
BA’s A319s are powered by two IAE V2500 engines made by the International Aero Engines consortium, part-owned by Pratt & Whitney parent UTC.
Shares in IAG were 2.2 percent down at 272.2 pence by 12.30 p.m.
Editing by Angus MacSwan