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Cockpit smoke! Scared pax hear pilot make distress call

November 18, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59In what appears to have been an extraordinary blunder compounding an already serious problem, frightened passengers aboard a British Airways flight reported hearing their pilot make a distress call while over the Atlantic, as smoke poured into the flight deck.

According to a report in Britain’s Sunday Express newspaper, the captain radioed for help – only for one of the flight crew to accidentally turn on the public address system as the call was being made.

The paper said the B777 with 220 people aboard was flying from London Heathrow to JFK New York when it had to divert to Shannon Airport in Ireland because of smoke in the cockpit.

The BA plane at Shannon Airport

The BA plane at Shannon Airport

When crew saw smoke they immediately donned oxygen masks and alerted air traffic control. In doing so, however, it seems one of them inadvertently switched on the cabin address system, broadcasting the start of the call to passengers.

The flight landed at Shannon Airport  and passengers were told an electrical fault had occurred. The paper said passengers then had to wait seven hours for a replacement jet to fly them to JFK airport in New York.

The Sunday Express said the airline is still investigating and an overheating cockpit circulation fan is suspected to have been the source of the smoke.

Simon Hradecky’s authoritative Aviation Herald site said the plane affected was a British Airways Boeing 777-200, registration G-VIIS performing flight BA-173 from London Heathrow, EN (UK) to New York JFK, NY (USA).

“About one hour into the crossing… the crew declared PAN reporting a burning smell in the cabin and requested to turn around and divert to Shannon (Ireland).”

“The crew indicated they didn’t need assistance by emergency services at Shannon, they expected a normal landing below max landing weight and expected to directly taxi to the apron. The aircraft landed safely on Shannon’s runway 24 about 90 minutes after declaring PAN.”

As for the PAN reference, three calls of pan-pan is used in radiotelephone communications to signify an emergency aboard a boat, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle – but one that, for the time being at least, poses no immediate danger to anyone’s life or to the vessel itself.

Written by Peter Needham

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