Yesterday at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, British Airways Flight 2276 bound for London’s Gatwick airport experienced an engine fire during its takeoff roll. More than a dozen people were injured in this horrific-looking incident. Here is a recap of everything we know about the situation so far.
The British Airways airliner, a Boeing 777-200 with 159 passengers and 13 crew onboard, began its voyage normally after pushing back from Gate E3 at McCarran’s new Terminal 3 just before 4:00 p.m. local time. Minutes later, as the jet was on runway 7L and commencing its takeoff roll, fire broke out in the aircraft’s port side engine, sending thick black smoke pouring skyward.
An audio recording of the 42-year veteran pilot Chris Henkey calling “Mayday” has emerged, in which a calm McCarran air traffic controller can be heard directing other aircraft away from the stricken Boeing widebody. The video below also shows McCarran airport fire apparatus and emergency response vehicles arriving at the scene and attacking the flames.
Reports say the rescue vehicles reached the aircraft two minutes after the pilots first announced that they were evacuating the aircraft on the runway, and all passengers and crew had been evacuated via the aircraft’s emergency exit slides within five minutes.
FAA regulations mandate that all passengers and crew must be on the ground in 90 seconds under simulated emergency conditions, even if the emergency is taking place in total darkness and only half of the emergency exits are accessible.
Henkey and crew are being widely praised for their quick thinking during the incident, with the pilot reportedly receiving applause from passengers following the evacuation. At this time, Henkey reportedly told passengers that the fire had occurred due to a “catastrophic failure of the engine.”
After the fire was extinguished, passengers who didn’t require urgent care were provided lodging in the vicinity of the airport. The 777 was towed to a nearby aircraft parking area, where the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting an investigation. Damage from the fire was reportedly extensive enough to have melted some of the jet’s windows. Meanwhile, runway 7L was re-opened last evening.
Sources show that 20 passengers have been hospitalized as a result of the incident, but all have reportedly been released from the hospital at this time. Photos posted to Twitter show various angles of the burned jet. In the photos below, heavy damage to the fuselage, the leading edge of the inboard wing section and engine can be seen.
While it should be noted that the investigation is only in its preliminary stages at the time of this writing, the photos of this incident coupled with accounts from the pilot indicate that it could possibly be the result of an uncontained engine failure.
This is a highly unusual yet terrifying scenario in which turbine fragments can breach the outer skin of the engine nacelle at extremely high speeds, causing severe damage and extreme danger to anything nearby, most notably the aircraft.
General Electric (GE), maker of the aircraft’s GE90-85B high bypass turbofan engines, has issued a statement expressing their confidence in their GE90 engine’s reliability and pledging their full cooperation with the investigation. GE competitor Rolls-Royce was quick to clarify that their engines weren’t equipped on the aircraft in question.
More on this as we get it.
Photo credit: Top shot via John Locher/AP
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