When eight airport fire engines with sirens blaring rushed to extinguish an aircraft engine fire, they ended up spraying foam on the wrong plane, delaying its take-off by 10 hours.
The extraordinary blunder at Fuzhou City Airport in southern China was revealed by China’s Xinhua news agency and was picked up by other outlets around the world.
The episode began with reports of a possible fire in the right-hand-side engine of an Air China B737-800 flight taxiing for take-off.
With commendable speed, eight fire trucks sped onto the runway within minutes and began spraying a Fuzhou Airlines aircraft with foam – only for the control tower to inform them they were spraying the wrong plane.
As a result, the Air China aircraft, which was about to take off when the problem was spotted, spent some time unattended.
By the time the fire crews turned their attention to the correct aircraft, the Fuzhou Airlines aircraft was smothered in foam. It had to be evacuated and its take-off was delayed by 10 hours.
The Air China flight, a Boeing 737-800 headed to Beijing, reported smoke, sparks and possible fire in the right engine. When the firefighters arrived four minutes later its engines had been switched off.
Spotting the Fuzhou Airlines plane, an aircraft of the same type, with exhaust fumes coming from its tail, firefighters mistakenly headed straight for it, the airport explained in a statement.
“The firefighters sprayed the Fuzhou Airlines plane with foam until the airport’s control centre alerted them to the mistake, and then they sprayed the right plane,” the statement said.
The blunder closed the airport for 90 minutes and delayed 30 flights.
Written by Peter Needham