Passengers, rather than crew, were first to notice that something was wrong when an engine malfunctioned on a scheduled flight. Doors to the engines were left unlatched, fuel streamed out of one engine and then the engine caught fire. But when passengers tried to tell crew about the fuel leak, crew ignored them.
The plane, a British Airways Airbus A319, turned back to London with black smoke billowing from one of its engines, just minutes into its flight to Oslo, Norway. While 75 passengers and five crew were evacuated safely via the escape slides, three other passengers were treated for minor injuries.
Although the incident occurred on 24 May 2013, a report has just been released. Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said aircraft technicians might have been tired, the BBC reported.
It turned out that the plane suffered a punctured fuel pipe and a fire in the right engine.
The AAIB said “several passengers” recounted how they attempted to tell cabin crew about the fluid they could plainly see leaking out of the right engine.
“It is unclear when or how the passengers attempted to draw this to the attention of the cabin crew, or indeed which cabin crew members were involved, but it is evidence from photographs and passenger reports that the fuel leak was clearly visible through the cabin windows,” the report said.
“Despite these cues, information regarding the fuel leak was not assimilated by the cabin crew and not passed to the flight crew as required.”
The report also found the fan cowl doors on both engines were left unlatched in a maintenance error following scheduled overnight work.
British Airways says changes have been made to prevent similar incidents.
Written by Peter Needham