Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Qantas passengers tell of engine fire scare

A second Qantas passenger on QF5 from Sydney says he heard what sounded like an "explosion" before the plane rolled and "suddenly lost altitude".

Craig Scutella, a Sydney-based management executive, said he was relaxing in the premium economy section of the Singapore-bound Boeing 747 on Monday evening when he heard a "large noise". "[It] sounded like an explosion from the right hand side of the plane, the plane rolled a little, there was an [sic] noticeable increase in the air pressure on board, then the plane suddenly lost altitude," Mr Scutella said in an email.

Pierre Lord, who was also on board, said he saw an engine on the right wing ablaze with large flames about an hour and a half from Singapore, while the aircraft was flying over the ocean. Mr Lord said he was sitting at the back of the plane two seats from the window when flames "five or six metres long and about a metre in diameter" shot out of the engine for about two minutes before the fire was put out. "It looked like the back of a rocket, burning white and pink and blue, not little yellow flames," he said.

The captain told passengers, when the plane landed in Singapore, that an engine had failed, Mr Lord said. Mr Scutella said he heard the captain announce that the engine "misfired" and was restarted.

Qantas this morning denied that the engine failed and disputed the extent of the flames, but said an engine had to be shut down. "There was an increase in vibration from one of the four engines, so the pilots shut down this engine as a precaution and flew the plane safely to Singapore," the spokesman said. "The planes can safely fly on three engines and landed without incident around two hours later in Singapore.

"The passenger may have seen sparks and small flames for a short time in the exhaust area of the affected engine but it was definitely not on fire."

Mr Lord said he thought it was "the end" and ran to tell a flight attendant who was already talking to the pilot on the phone. Although the plane was surprisingly calm and no one panicked, he said about 30 people were on their feet looking out of the window "counting the seconds". "I was expecting something to blow any second," he said.

Mr Scutella said the incident lasted about five minutes before "the plane was back to normality".

Qantas said its engineers were looking into what caused the increase in vibration.


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