Fire-hit Cathay Airbus in emergency landing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2011, 12:00am


An investigation was under way last night after a Cathay Pacific plane with 136 passengers on board was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore after flames poured out of a stalled engine.

Frightened passengers say they heard a series of loud bangs and saw flames shooting out of the right-hand engine on the Airbus A300-300 minutes into the 90-minute flight from Singapore to Jakarta early yesterday.

Some passengers prayed and others screamed as the plane shook violently before making an emergency landing on one engine in Singapore, where fire engines were waiting to douse the damaged engine.

'I've never been so terrified in my life,' one passenger said afterward.

No one was injured and an investigation was being conducted by both Cathay Pacific and engine maker Rolls-Royce to find out what caused the engine failure on flight CX715, which started in Hong Kong.

'We can appreciate the concern and anxiety felt by the passengers during the incident, but our captain and his crew were in control of the situation at all times,' a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said. 'They reacted exactly as they are trained to do, shut down the affected engine and returned the aircraft safely to Singapore.

'Our captain was full of praise for the calm and co-operative manner of the passengers, both at the time of the announcement of the flight return and their disembarkation from the aircraft via airport mobile staircase. We are very grateful for their calm and orderly response to the situation.'

The drama began minutes after take-off at around 1am when the cockpit crew received a stall warning message from the aircraft's No 2 engine, the spokeswoman said. Flames were then seen coming out of the engine, she confirmed.

'The crew shut down the Rolls-Royce engine when they received the alert,' she said. 'An emergency landing was declared and the aircraft returned at 01.57am without incident.

'Fire services met the aircraft on arrival. The aircraft stopped on the taxiway and sparks from the No 2 engine were reported. They were doused by fire extinguishers.'

One passenger posted a blog from Changi Airport shortly after the incident, saying he heard loud bangs and smelled fire about 35 minutes into the flight as the right hand engine 'exploded'. 'The aircraft started shaking uncontrollably, being powered by only the left engine,' the passenger wrote. 'The noise on board was incredible. We couldn't hear any of the announcements of the crew. We heard later from one of the crew members that the captain could not see the controls properly due to the heavy shaking. Passengers stayed amazingly calm and people started to pray. A group of Indonesian Christians started to sing quietly. After a terrifying 30 minutes, the pilots managed to safely land in Singapore - a rough, but safe landing.'

An Indonesian photographer for Reuters named Beawiharta who was on board with his wife, two sons and daughter, said there were 'two sharp bangs' about 20 minutes after take-off.

The plane shook violently and the lights went out and he said he could smell burning. He asked his 15-year-old son to look out of the window and his son shouted: 'I see fire. I see fire.'

'He then asked 'Will we die? Will we die',' Beawiharta said. 'I took his hand and told him firmly: 'No, we are going to live'.'

Passengers were put up in hotels and transferred to other flights yesterday morning while the Airbus was grounded for the investigation. The Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department had been informed, the Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said.

On November 4, a Qantas A380 Airbus made an emergency landing in Singapore shortly after take-off when one of its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines suffered a major malfunction.