(Reuters) - A British Airways jetliner engine caught fire in Las Vegas as the plane was about to take off for London, forcing all 172 passengers and crew to escape down emergency slides as smoke and flames engulfed the aircraft.
Several passengers needed hospital treatment for minor injuries after the Boeing (BA.N) 777’s aborted takeoff on Tuesday, with one of those present saying smoke caused people to rush to the front of the plane, sparking scenes of panic.
General Electric (GE.N) said the plane was powered by two of its GE90 engines. Preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pacific Division said the plane’s left engine had burst into flames on takeoff.
“Mayday, Mayday, Speedbird 2276 request fire services,” one of the pilots is heard saying calmly in a British accent on an audio clip posted online. “We are evacuating on the runway, we have a fire, I repeat, we are evacuating.”
Video and photographs from the scene showed the wide-body jet engulfed in flames and thick black smoke at McCarran International Airport. The plane was carrying 159 passengers and 13 crew members.
General Electric said the GE90 engine used to power the Boeing 777 fleet had had an “outstanding” safety and reliability record since entering service in 1995.
“Based on the engine fleet’s service history, we are not aware of any operational issues that would hazard the continued safe flight of aircraft powered by these engines,” it said.
General Electric said it would join BA and Boeing in providing assistance to the National Transportation Safety Board in investigating what went wrong.
“Our crew evacuated the aircraft safely and the fire was quickly extinguished by the emergency services at the airport,” a BA spokeswoman said.
Jacob Steinberg, a sports journalist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, tweeted that he had fallen asleep on the plane during take-off and felt the jetliner come to “crashing halt”.
“Could smell and see smoke but was on other side of plane. One person said fire melted a couple of windows,” he wrote. “They opened the back door and slide went down and smoke started coming in plane, followed by mad dash to front. A lot of panic.”
The BA spokeswoman said the airline was providing passengers with hotel accommodation and other needs. She said all those customers who went to hospital had since been released.
The incident temporarily delayed flights across the western United States.
Additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Writing by Kate Holton in London; Editing by Alison Williams