By Daniel Wallis
All 172 passengers and crew escaped a fire on a British Airways (BA) plane in Las Vegas on Tuesday when smoke and flames engulfed the aircraft as it was about to take off for London.
The fire in one of the plane’s two engines sent black smoke into the cabin, forcing the passengers to rush to the front, sparking scenes of panic, one person on board tweeted.
Several passengers and crew suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospital after all on board the Boeing Co 777 escaped down emergency inflatable slides.
“Mayday, Mayday, Speedbird 2276 request fire services,” one of the pilots is heard saying calmly on an audio clip posted online. “We are evacuating on the runway, we have a fire, I repeat, we are evacuating.”
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Pacific Division said the plane’s left engine had burst into flames on take-off. BA said the engines were made by General Electric (GE) . A GE spokesman in Europe declined to comment.
Video and photographs from the scene showed the wide-body jet engulfed in flames and thick black smoke at McCarran International Airport. The plane was carrying 159 passengers and 13 crew members.
“Our crew evacuated the aircraft safely and the fire was quickly extinguished by the emergency services at the airport,” a BA spokeswoman said.
A photograph posted by the airport of the immediate aftermath showed the plane on the runway with charred fuselage.
The incident temporarily delayed flights across the western United States.
Jacob Steinberg, a sports journalist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, tweeted that he had fallen asleep on the plane during take-off and felt the jetliner come to “crashing halt”.
“Could smell and see smoke but was on other side of plane. One person said fire melted a couple of windows,” he wrote. “They opened the back door and slide went down and smoke started coming in plane, followed by mad dash to front. A lot of panic.”
The BA spokeswoman said the airline was providing passengers with hotel accommodation and other needs.