British Airways Flight Burst Into Flames on Approach To Heathrow After Engineers Checked WRONG PLANE Before Takeoff

imageA British Airways flight burst into flames as it approached Heathrow – because tired engineers had accidentally checked over the wrong plane before takeoff.

Both engine covers blew off – one severing a fuel pipe – and pilots quickly made the decision to turn back after the plane had taken off from Heathrow.

The leaking fuel then caught fire and the pilot, hearing “a loud bang”, was forced to return the plane to the runway on a single engine.

As it approached Heathrow, 30 minutes after takeoff, the Airbus rained chunks of metal on the surrounding area – the largest of which was 37kg and measured 1.5m by 2.5m.

The flight’s ordeal was not over: as the plane touched down, a tyre exploded thanks to the uneven weight caused by the lack of a right engine.

Horrifying details of the incident, in May 2013, were revealed today in a report published by the Air Accidents Investigation Bureau.

The report lays the blame partly at the door of two technicians, who were supposed to be working on the plane but accidentally carried out checks on the wrong one – something called “aircraft swap” in the report.

A shortage of maintenance staff meant both technicians had worked a “significant” level of overtime – meaning “there was an increased risk that their performance could be compromised by fatigue”.

One man had worked 144 hours in a fortnight, including eight 12-hour night shifts, while the other had done 120 hours in the same time frame.

This could have explained the fact the men, after a break while checking over the plane, failed to notice they had returned to work on a significantly larger A321 instead of the ill-fated A319, whose maintenance was not complete.

Had they checked the registration number they would have noticed their error, the report adds. Other staff, including the pilot, later failed to spot the problem before take-off.

Shocked passengers snapped pictures of the fuel leak as the pilot flew the Oslo-bound plane back to Heathrow – having been told by cabin crew there was nothing wrong.

“A number of passengers saw fuel leaking from the right engine,” the report says. “One passenger highlighted the leaking fluid to a member of the cabin crew, stating that it appeared to be fuel, but was told that it was not.”

The incident marked the 35th time the engine covers, properly called fan cowl doors, had blown off mid-flight on Airbus 320 family aircraft – all of them due to human error.

In every case, the doors had been opened prior to the flight and not properly closed, the report said.

But British Airways said changes to procedures would stop it happening again.

A spokesman told the Daily Mail: “The safety of our customers and crew is always our highest priority. The changes we have already made to our procedures, along with the safety recommendations for EASA and Airbus, will prevent occurrences of this type of incident in the future.

“It is through co-operation with the AAIB and other safety bodies that we, and the airline industry as a whole, can continue to improve the safety of flying and prevent future incidents.

“Our highly trained pilots and cabin crew ensured our customers’ safety throughout the flight and the subsequent evacuation.”

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